As a profession we're seekers of knowledge, we aim to aid our clients to discover new ways of feeling, thinking and behaving, to gain insight and live in ways that are right for them. This knowledge seeking happens in the room, within our professional forums and conversations, and through our own reflection and development.
What sometimes gets missed within this process which sits so closely with our clients and community is the role of research, and I was delighted when so many people attended the recent BACP research conference to talk about what empirical work is being done to impact on BACP's goal of addressing inclusivity.
As always at a conference of this sort, I left with some wonderful insights and ideas, the most important of which is that we need to bridge the gap between research and practice. This idea is underlined by the research being done, for example, John McLeod explaining why averages are not helpful to individuals, Heidi Levitt who gave voice to marginalised non-cis-gender groups, Sally Lumsdaine, Charlotte Scott, Mhairi Thurston, Nicola Blunden and others work on managing the complexity of inclusion in the entire research process, and finally Emma Mallace who articulated the experience of mothers being stigmatised for their child’s non-attendance at school. As always there were presentations I longed to go to and will watch them on our Research online 2022 on-demand web page.
Perceptions of research in counselling seems to vary, some people shy away from it as if it were another language - untranslatable in to their everyday work. Others resist it because they're concerned that the context of work (particularly in the areas of the UK which are subject to IAPT) means that what happens in the therapy room is decided elsewhere – applying a model that is supposed to be the best to a unique person can leave a sense of dissatisfaction. Others too are engaged with research with a relish and enthusiasm (myself included) and it's my hope that this is something the conference encourages in others.
In line with BACP's strategic directions, this year’s conference spoke to the themes of difference and inclusion, and this in turn reflected those silent voices that come out in our therapy rooms. I'm therefore going to give some ideas that might help research inclusion and get everyone along to the 2023 conference:
- the process of preparing for research projects uncovers what's already understood – and is a wonderfully efficient way of gaining knowledge (nobody needs to reinvent the wheel)
- research creates new meaning and can be directed towards social justice and silenced voices
- research widens the scope of the possible and can create knowledge that can be used to challenge the thin narratives of medicalised systems
All of us can find meaning in research and this can lead us forward as a profession, and as professionals in practice.
Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.