“It has taken me quite some years to recognise I am a researcher as well as a practitioner. Research to me simply means trying to find out what works, why and how, so that I could do more to help my clients.

“Yet, from being a lone practitioner in private practice, to growing a large, multi-disciplinary wellbeing team in a group of schools, I have always tried to investigate my own practice and that of my teams, as a way of offering clients the best services. I did not consider this real research. I thought it was just pragmatism at best.

“Typical of this way of working, a client satisfaction survey highlighted demand for an online therapy provision from their in-house therapy team for them to access as a potential adjunct to face-to-face work.

“This triggered for me a search through research literature and available information to find out more and to consider potentially developing my services in this way.

My official research journey

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t find all I was looking for, so I decided to carry out some research myself. For the first time I recognised too, that my investigations in this area and any results that might be produced, may be of interest or practical use to some of my professional peers if I shared it. Thus, began my official research journey.

“Though I had been a BACP member since 2005, I hadn’t attended any BACP research conferences before 2014, as I didn’t think a research conference was directly useful to my everyday service delivery, nor somewhere that I would necessarily feel like I belonged.

“I saw it more as something that very smart people were involved in and who’d had many years of research training and shared a special ‘research language’ that I felt I didn’t have. How wrong could I have been!

Buzz of excitement

“Attending my first BACP Research conference in 2014 I found that most attendees were mere mortal practitioners, like me, who were busy finding out and sharing what was or wasn’t working in their particular areas of expertise.

“The buzz of excitement was palpable.

“I also met many seasoned and well-known professionals whose books and articles I had previously read, wandering around with the rest of us, attending workshops and presentations (where they weren’t presenting themselves), fully engaging in discussions and who seemed easy to talk to over coffee, lunch or in passing.

“This was a community that was so interested and supportive of the work that I was considering carrying out, as well as being passionate about their own and each other’s.

“It dawned on me then that I was and pretty much had always been a real researcher, as much as I was a real and pragmatic clinician.

One of the highlights of the year

“The BACP research conference for me is now one of the highlights of the year. So many inspirational and game-changing people who work in my professional field all in the same place, sharing ideas, supporting each other and really having fun doing so. The first night dinner dance is a must for all!

“If you have never been to one of these, whether you consider yourself a real researcher or not, I wholeheartedly encourage you to attend.

“You are likely to come away with new ideas or information and renewed enthusiasm for the work you do. You will also likely have had some fun and possibly made some new friends too, just as I have.”

Dr Jeanette Hennigan works at helpyourhead.com