International Conference on Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy Prize Winners
We are delighted to announce our conference prize winners from the last two years. You can find more information on each of the projects and links to watch the presentations below. You can watch all of the recordings from the conference here. Congratulations to all of our prize winners!
Senior Prize – 2022 – Arts for the Blues project
Arts for the Blues is an evidence-based, pluralistic creative group psychotherapy originally designed for use with adults for depression, but now diversifying across other groups and conditions. It is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof Vicky Karkou, an arts therapist, Dr Joanna Omylinska-Thurston, a counselling psychologist, and Prof Scott Thurston, a poet and performer (and now trainee counsellor), across the institutions of Edge Hill University, the University of Salford and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, and draws on a range of traditions and influences in modern psychotherapy.
The project is currently undergoing expansion through two funding streams: the AHRC’s Scaling up health inequality and intervention strategies and the Arts Council England’s project grants. The underlying pluralistic framework of the model has attracted a number of collaborators, researchers and trainees alike, and we were pleased to present to the Pluralistic Conference alongside our RA Emma Perris and researchers Jo Leather, Kathleen Kwakye-Donkor and Rachel Calleja, whose own unique perspectives have hugely enriched the project.
For more information about Arts for the Blues, please see our website at www.artsfortheblues.com, which features video representations of the key ingredients of the model, a short film about our first full-length pilot with MIND in Ashton-under-Lyne and further information about our research publications.
Junior Prize – 2022 – Mark Clamp
What outcome goals do young people aged 16 to 20 years who self-harm have for therapy and what in therapy helped or hindered them in achieving these goals?
The study, originally not designed from a pluralistic perspective, consisted of a systematic review concerned with young people’s barriers to help seeking, what outcomes they wanted for therapy, and whether they experienced therapy as helpful or unhelpful. It also contains an empirical study which explored the experience of therapy for ten young people who had a history of self-harm with an IAPT service in the East of England.
The narrative synthesis (Popay et al., 2006) fell into two overarching themes: young people, self-harm and help seeking, and young people’s experiences of therapy. The findings show that previous experiences of disclosing self-harm to others and poor experiences, including not feeling in control of the helping process, are a barrier to young people seeking professional help later in their lives.
The empirical study focused on analysis of ten qualitative semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, coded, and analysed using reflective thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006; 2019). The analysis identified four themes: Hope of feeling more in control, Therapy changed the way I see things, Therapist enabled a positive therapeutic space, and There are consequences to admitting to self-harming. The data provided detail on how a greater sense of feeling in control over their lives is a common goal for therapy for young people who self-harm. Gaining understanding or reclaiming a sense of being in control resulted in the young person experiencing the therapy in a positive light and assessing it as successful. The results also show that an increased sense of being in control is sometimes overlooked and a missing aspect of therapy with young people who self-harm. The study also demonstrates how the pluralistic approach to therapy can facilitate and foster this sense of control in the therapeutic environment. However, control over some aspects of young people’s lives cannot be changed because of circumstances and socioeconomic demands of the world they inhabit. In these cases, therapy can only offer a greater understanding and acceptance of where control can or cannot be exerted.
The findings also suggest that connected to a sense of control is the realisation in the young person that their behaviours impact others. What is clear is that in some cases the motivation to seek professional help and hope for the outcome of therapy as being to ‘get better’ is driven by concern for how self-harm impacts significant others over and above the young person’s need to decrease their own emotional difficulties.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(2), 77-101.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise & Health, 11(4), 589-597.
Junior Prize – 2021 – Hilary McNally
The research looked at the experience of using deliberate practice, a training methodology designed to improve performance, in a group of diploma level counselling students.
It was inspired by a workshop on the topic by John and Julia McLeod which filled me with hope. I was at the stage of my own training where I oscillated from passionate enthusiasm for all that I was learning and the possibilities it offered to overwhelming panic and despair that I might never get a handle on it and maybe I just didn’t have what it takes. Being reminded that improvement comes from focused and consistent practice rather than some innate ability and that this was just as true for counselling was exactly what I needed to hear.
I wondered what other counsellors and trainees thought and discovered anecdotally that some shared my enthusiasm while others were sceptical or dismissive of something seen as another demand in an already busy schedule.
I was curious to find out what influenced attitudes to deliberate practice and mentioned this in an email to Julia who suggested it might make a good MSc project. I interviewed a number of counselling students at Abertay University where a deliberate practice framework had been introduced.
With supervision support from Julia and the generosity of students at Abertay, who agreed to give me their time and share their experiences with me, I was able to carry out the research and present the findings at the 2021 Pluralistic Conference.