Research bites

This issue’s papers focus on research in counselling and psychotherapy with people experiencing anxiety, in line with the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week from 15-21 May

Non-directive play for anxiety

A survey was conducted with 20 children aged seven to nine years who had been diagnosed as anxious – 10 children participated in 10 sessions of play therapy and 10 children did not. The results showed that anxiety scores reduced significantly for the group of children taking part in non-directive play therapy compared to the group who did not participate. Specifically, play therapy had a positive effect on agoraphobia, separation anxiety, physical injury fear, social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder scores. The study recommends combining non-directive play therapy with parenting education and training primary teachers about non-directive play therapy.

Read more: Hateli B: The effect of non-directive play therapy on reduction of anxiety disorders in young children. 

Anxiety in the perinatal period

This systematic review explored the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapies (CBTs) and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for reducing anxiety during pregnancy and in the first year following birth (the perinatal period). Findings indicated that CBTs and MBIs were more effective than control conditions in reducing anxiety during the perinatal period – specifically, group-based interventions and individual interventions. However, no significant effects emerged for self-guided therapies. Both in-person and online therapies showed similar benefits. The authors suggest that randomised control trials are required to compare effectiveness between psychological interventions for perinatal anxiety. 

Read more: Clinkscales N et al: The effectiveness of psychological interventions for anxiety in the perinatal period: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Test anxiety in adolescence

This study explored the use of compassionate mind training (CMT) as a school-based intervention for test anxiety among adolescents. CMT is an aspect of compassionate-focused therapy primarily focused on the delivery of psychoeducation to develop the skills to cultivate compassion in the self. Participants in the intervention group received eight sessions of CMT, completing pre- and post-intervention measures of test anxiety, general anxiety and self-compassion. Results indicated a significant reduction in test anxiety and general anxiety, and an improvement in self compassion in comparison with the control group.

Read more: O’Driscoll D, McAleese M: The feasibility and effectiveness of compassionate mind training as a test anxiety intervention for adolescents: a preliminary investigation

In the spotlight

‘I hope to provide understanding of gendered power dynamics’

Amanda McGarry MBACP (Accred) is a person-centred counsellor working in private practice. Alongside this Amanda is a senior lecturer at the University of Chester, teaching on both undergraduate and postgraduate counselling courses, and an associate lecturer at The Open University. She is currently completing a PhD at the University of Chester.

Tell us about your research

My research is exploring gendered power dynamics in the therapeutic relationship from the perspective of women, non-binary and gender non-conforming practitioners. While collecting data for my research I have been fortunate enough to meet some wonderfully thoughtful counsellors, who were generous with their time and reflections

What motivated you to undertake research in student counselling?

Within my first few months of qualifying as a counsellor, I became aware that gendered power dynamics might be part of therapeutic experiences I was having with male clients. I set off to find some literature to hopefully shed light on this but found very little. I decided I’d like to research this area myself to understand my experiences more fully, and potentially the experiences of others in this area.

What are some of the implications of your research?

I hope the findings provide counsellors with an opportunity for reflection and understanding in relation to gendered power dynamics in their therapeutic relationships. I also hope that my research can be used as a stepping stone for further study in this area and add to the thoughtful discussions taking place about the sociopolitical context in counselling.

• In each issue a practitioner, postgraduate student or academic will tell us about how their research may inform therapeutic practice.