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Title: Counselling psychologists' talk of 'authenticity' : exploring the implications of 'authenticity' discourse for ethical practice
Author: Ryan, Lucy
ISNI:       0000 0004 2738 653X
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2012
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This research explores how ‘authenticity’ is constructed in counselling psychology and asks what the ethical implications of this commonly taken-for-granted value might be. A discourse analytic approach known as ‘critical discursive psychology’ was used to examine eight counselling psychologists’ talk of ‘authenticity’ in semi-structured interviews. The analysis suggested that counselling psychologists may draw on a number of interpretative repertoires regarding ‘authenticity’, using them to establish their identity and negotiate their relationships with clients. However, taken together these repertoires might be said to form an ‘authenticity ideal’, which often functions to position the therapist as authentic and the client as inauthentic. Furthermore, in drawing upon various psychotherapeutic and humanistic discourses, the participants in this study appeared to be distanced from their power in positioning clients as inauthentic, although they demonstrated a problematizing of their own ‘authenticity’ in relation to the need for professional boundaries. This research suggests that talk of ‘authenticity’ tends to locate therapeutic action within a humanistic moral discourse of self-unity. This is of concern because the emphasis on individualism may lead therapists to underestimate the social and relational context of their clients’ difficulties. It should be noted that this critique falls not on the individuals involved in this research, for their answers were consistent with a range of accepted theoretical guidelines; but instead upon the reification of authenticity within counselling psychology and Western society in general. The participants in this study further problematized ‘authenticity’ in terms of needing to balance it with the demands of training and employment organisations. It was found that ii both institutional power and individual embodiment may act as ‘extra-discursive’ influences and constraints upon ‘authenticity’ discourse; however, the methodological feasibility of a critical-realist epistemology within discursive research is questioned. The limitations of the research findings and their relevance for reflexive practice are considered.
Supervisor: Loewenthal, Derek ; Davies, James Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: counselling psychology ; authenticity ; ethics ; discourse analysis