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Title: The concept of family re-enactment in counselling psychologists' and psychotherapists' training groups
Author: Hale, Andrew
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2006
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This Portfolio contains a summary · of my work as a Counselling Psychologist in training. Although it is unable to provide a complete account of all my therapeutic work over the last 3 years, I hope it will give the reader a taste of my experience and how I relate to both practice and research. All clients referred to throughout the portfolio have been assigned a synonym in order maintain their anonymity. Before I begin, I feel it is appropriate that I give some insight into the reasons that drew me into training and a career as a counselling psychologist. My academic journey started 8 years ago when I began my psychology degree at Roehampton Institute. This had followed a particularly difficult time for me in which I had struggled to find a professional identity and career that I felt I could be happy with. Over the 3 years my research has focused on aspects of group therapy, my literature review the concept of late-onset alcoholism and the effects of group therapy on an older population. This was perhaps driven by an earlier focus on lifespan development and ongoing transitions across the human lifecycle. My qualitative research examined the perceptions of Counselling Psychologists' and Psychotherapists' experience in training groups and the impact that they have on interpersonal learning and practitioner development. From my perspective, one of the most interesting findings was the concept of family re-enactment within the group and this formed the basis of my 3rd year quantitative study. I feel I was drawn to the concept of groupwork for a number of 'reasons. One of these was perhaps the very reason that attracted me to Counselling Psychology in the first place. As a child I spent a number of years at a boarding school where my experience was not a particularly happy one. At the time I felt that there was no escape, I felt both lonely and homesick and equally experienced a sense of shame at my inability to cope with the situation. This led me to consider the possible reasons for why people behave and react as they do, and whether earlier patterns of relating and experience are carried forwards into the future. Although the focus of my study was on family reenactment it is equally possible that alternative group situations may help construct an individual's communication style for example those with peers at school. I asked myself whether if an individual has . been a victim, a leader or a helper in the past whether this would be relived in a group. My focus on Psychotherapists and Counselling Psychologists was largely due to my belief that this population, through the rigours of their training, and the emphasis on development of self awareness and personal insight would be able to engage in a profound self-reflection on their experiences and emotions. I found that my focus on groups was of a particular value in my second year in which I had the opportunity of co-facilitating a_ psychotherapy group based on the "Tavistock Tradition". It was interesting for me as a trainee to examine some of the emotions that were stirred up by the group and reflect on how I may have interpreted these both in relation to my past and my research. It also allowed me to think about how different individuals relate in a group and how their interactions effect others whether this be for better or worse. Over the course of the last 3 years I have had the opportunity of working in a number of different settings. My first placement was based in a large multinational organisation, and for me, with some background in occupational psychology this proved to be enlightening. The clients I worked with came from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, which included British, European, African, Asian and American. I felt this was important for me since it gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I a white British male may be seen by any of these other cultures and what implications this may have for my therapeutic work with clients. My clients were able to give me a valuable insight into their emotions, which often included anxiety due to difficulties at work and problems with colleagues that impacted on their wider lives. They were in some cases also able to provide me with an insight into what it might be like working in a culture that appeared alien to them. I found it useful to reflect on these issues in terms of my own previous experience, my research and my countertransference. Equally from a theoretical and academic perspective this led me to explore some of the models surrounding anxiety, and I produced a paper exploring the Freudian and Kohutian interpretation of its origin and treatment. My second year placement was in an adult psychotherapy unit, which adopted a psychodynamic approach in its work. I had four clients, one male and three female with whom I worked on a weekly basis for approximately 9 months. During this time I was able to think about my relationship with them and many of the ethical and professional issues that arose, many of these surrounded aspects of gender and age. In turn, this led me to contemplate the phenomenon of erotic transference, which I examined in a paper in my second year. I felt this was an appropriate time to explore this concept since it presented a particular challenge in relation to one of my female clients. In addition I felt it would provide me with an "armoury" and an ethical foundation for my future work as a Counselling Psychologist, which I believe to be an important and valuable part of my practice. Initially I had felt some trepidation in working with certain client populations. This became real for me in my third year in which I had two separate placements; the first was in a combined forensic and learning disability department that operated from a cognitive behavioural perspective. My clients were mainly learning disabled and my anxieties in working with this group stemmed from my own experience with dyslexia and whether we would both end up confusing each other. I frequently wondered whether the countertransference would in some way disempower or deskill me and was able to reflect on how these may be prominent concerns for the learning disabled. As I read more, I found that it was important that the cognitive model was applied within a much broader person centred approach (Emerson, Hatton, Bromley & Caine 1998), and I discovered that I felt more comfortable with this. From a cognitive behavioural perspective I am drawn to this when I consider the possible difficulties or stumbling blocks that may present themselves within the therapeutic relationship, and this I have considered in a paper in my academic dossier. Overall a person centred approach would seem to sit more easily with my belief that the three core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard (Rogers 1961) are central aspects facilitating positive change in therapy. I believe these are important ingredients of any model of therapy that I may wish to work within in the future. My second placement focused on working with mentally disordered offenders who had committed violent crimes; previously this had been an area of concern for me since I thought the experience would be profoundly disturbing. However, instead it has been extremely rewarding in that it has taught me more about human nature. I feel it has given me a greater insight into why people may commit crimes and a better understanding of their predicament. It has also enlightened me to the notion that very few people are beyond help or understanding, and that the application of cognitive behavioural therapy within a person centred framework can build a relationship even with those who have committed particularly violent acts. I hope this goes some way to outlining the content of this portfolio and clarifying the direction of my research and therapeutic work both over the last 3 years in my training and in my future work as a Counselling Psychologist.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available