An exploratory study to investigate aspects of the philosophy, method and practical application of pluralist evaluation of counselling
This thesis proposes and explores the theory and application of pluralism in the evaluation of counselling and psychotherapy. Current models of monistic and multi-method research are seen as inadequate as each tends to actively undermine the other(s). Those that attempt to offer a broad range of data types often struggle to maintain adequate 'truth value' for all their statements and findings. A pluralist process and mechanism is proposed to provide a constructive alternative to the essentially destructive models of scientific and epistemological (generally dialectical) progress described by Kuhn, Hegel and others. It also offers an advance on previous alternatives and other pluralist models. The pluralism proposed comprises cycles of structured interaction between differing methods based on a positively framed dialogue. Utility, as variously defined from different perspectives, is seen as a prime consideration. However, the approach is not merely pragmatic as it also protects the idealist epistemological aspirations and needs of the divergent research paradigms that might be applied in evaluating counselling and psychotherapy. The thesis describes a series of studies based on this pluralist model in order to explore its practical application. Three of these studies investigated the effectiveness of counselling services. Overall, their findings were supportive of the counselling interventions studied while successfully meeting a broad range of stakeholder needs. A fourth study explored pluralism in a context dominated by reductionist concerns and produced normative data on a psychometric measure of self / ideal-self discrepancies (equated with self esteem).