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Title: Counselling bisexuality : a qualitative exploration of 'affirmative' therapeutic engagement with bisexuality
Author: Piper, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 2718 2174
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2010
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Although there have been an increasing number of studies which focus on affirmative therapy with LGBTQ clients, there have been a limited number which have focused on an affirmative approach to bisexuality. Due to the popular discourses in society that erase bisexuality it is important for counselling psychologists to consider how these clients are understood by therapists and how therapists engage affirmatively with this cohort. The aim of the thesis was to consider how socio-cultural and professional discourses interact with, and impact on therapists' conceptualisations of bisexuality. This study also aimed to explore the ways in which affirmative therapists understood and spoke about bisexuality and affirmative therapy and how these understandings could influence therapeutic engagement with 'bisexuality'. The research questions were: In what ways do therapists conceptualise what it is to be 'affirmative' in their therapeutic engagements with LGBTQ clients?; In what ways do affirmative therapists understand bisexuality?; In what ways do therapists affirmatively engage with 'bisexual' clients in their therapeutic practices? A qualitative design was used and eight 'affirmative' therapists were interviewed. An inductive Thematic Analysis was carried out using a social constructionist epistemology and a relativist position. Three themes were presented. The first theme presented therapists "theoretically open" professional views on sexuality that were social constructionist in basis and validated sexual fluidity and bisexuality. The second theme presented rigid views around sexuality. This theme presented an overwhelming dichotomous positioning of therapists when they referred to their own or their client's sexuality. The third theme presented the resistance of the therapists to adopt the hegemonic affirmative approach. Findings suggested that, in line with previous research, therapists understanding of what it is to be affirmative did not appear to be LGBTQ specific. Therapists viewed the world in rigid sexual categories, which may have the potential to impact on their ability to be affirmative to bisexual clients and those clients occupying a more fluid position. There was also resistance to the hegemonic affirmative approach due to incompatibilities with certain theoretical orientations, as well as an incompatibility with some clients. The lack of concern for formalised affirmative therapy for bisexual or sexually fluid clients became particularly salient when considering the biphobic and rigid positions of some therapists. Often a therapist who did not believe in the need for specific hegemonic affirmative therapy, adopted a position against nondichotomous sexualities, which in turn adds weight to the argument that affirmative approaches are perhaps necessary, as therapists were unable to view sexuality as a multitude of different and valid experiences. The thesis concluded by advocating the need for more training on counselling psychology courses as well as stressing the need for counselling psychologists to intensely consider their own sexuality and consider a social obstructionist position in theory, as well as in practice, in order to ensure the ability to be affirmative to 'bisexualities'. It was argued that it is important to think about sexuality with regard to all the varieties of experiences that clients can have in order to validate the sexual journey of each client. In summary, the main message of this thesis is that therapists appear to hold dichotomous understandings of sexuality and so therefore this suggests it may be very difficult for them to be affirmative to bisexual or sexually fluid clients. Therapists found it difficult to appreciate the multiplicity of experiences and understandings their clients had presented. Instead therapists chose to view sexuality from rigid positions, often underpinned by their own experience of sexual development and mirroring dominant societal discourses. This has implications for the way in which counselling psychologists could approach sexuality within therapy because rigid dichotomous related interventions, or subtleties in talk, may limit and restrict clients' developing bisexualities. Finally, this thesis also recommends that researchers continue to examine ways in which counselling psychology can ensure an affirmative stance to bisexualities. taking into account the limitations that popular dominant discourses create for developing sexualities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Coun.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available