How Counsellors and Psychotherapists Make Sense of Pluralistic Approaches to Therapy

  • Jerome Alexander Beichman

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores how therapists themselves make sense of pluralistic approaches to therapy. Interview data was used to develop a contextual understanding of pluralism within the therapy professions.

    Semi-structured interviews were conducted with therapists who identified with different approaches via opportunity sampling. 12 therapists were interviewed: 4 participants were male and 8 were female. Their ages ranged from 29 to 74 and post-qualification experience varied from 1 to 28 years. The overarching question was: ‘How do you make sense of pluralistic approaches to counselling and psychotherapy?’ with sub-questions exploring the therapists’ experiences and practices in relation to the main

    Seven themes were identified. Three themes (‘Identity and Approach’, ‘The Flexibility-Rigidity Continuum’, and ‘It’s the Relationship’) were interpreted as belonging to ‘contentious issues’ that fed into a central theme ‘Debates about Pluralistic Approaches to Therapy’. These debates, in turn, lead to three additional themes interpreted as ‘diplomatic attempts at resolution’ (‘The Practice of Metacommunication’, ‘The Uncertainty-Understanding Continuum’, and ‘Common Factors’).

    The interviews allowed for the identification and interpretation of themes which could form the basis for further research for the benefit of practitioners, providers and clients. How this sample of therapists makes sense of pluralism in relation to their own practice demonstrates how pluralism might be better understood as a continuum or dimension of therapeutic practice rather than a differentiated way of practising. Pluralism is an important concept to understand for framing how training, practice and policies might be developed in the future. However, this research suggests that therapists are less convinced by the practice of ‘pluralistic therapy’ than they are by pluralistic therapy as a perspective. This research contributes an understanding of how pluralism as a perspective might be used politically to increase patient choice within organisations such as the NHS.
    Date of AwardDec 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorDiane Waller (Supervisor) & Graham Stew (Supervisor)

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