Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is at the heart of BACP’s research strategy. My work involves research focused on the care home sector, older adults and people with dementia. My interest in the area was piqued in previous roles as a researcher in university settings on care and retirement home projects. 

I joined BACP three years ago and initially conducted research on access to counselling and psychotherapy for older adults. Compared to younger populations, older adults (65+) are far less likely to access therapy, an inequality that also exists amongst people with dementia and low-income groups such as care workers. Our research aims to bridge these gaps in therapy access and treatment.

In January 2022, I started my BACP funded part time PhD studies through the University of Leicester. My research focuses on peer support and talking therapies for care home workers. This profession is typically on a low income and largely undervalued in society, experiencing workplace stressors such as long hours, bereavement and psychological symptoms which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have a poor working environment and sense workplace stigma surrounding mental health. Having peer support strategies in place with colleagues are a crucial first step, and the second step would involve counselling and psychotherapy.

BACP is also supporting a new Alzheimer’s Society funded study being run by the University of Liverpool. Dementia rates are increasing and there is currently a regional disparity in access to post diagnostic therapy for dementia. Psychotherapy can positively impact how people respond to their diagnosis, helping them work through challenges and self acceptance. However, dementia related counselling curricula does not currently exist in the UK and therapists lack confidence in working with this population. Through interviews with therapists and people with dementia and their families, this study aims to gain an understanding of the psychotherapeutic interventions being delivered, their access and outcomes. Workshops will then be delivered to develop core competences and recommendations.

The study leads, Dr Alys Griffiths and Dr Yelena Mikhaylova-O’Connell, from the University of Liverpool made the following comments about the study: "Currently there is little evidence for the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions for people living with dementia. A previous small study by the research team highlighted a range of benefits from psychotherapy, including processing and acceptance of the diagnosis, and reduced burden. We'll explore the experiences of people with dementia and their families who receive psychotherapeutic interventions and aim to identify the barriers and facilitators to providing such interventions. As a result, we hope to contribute to the development of core competencies and improve therapist training."

The study is currently recruiting people with dementia and their families who have experienced psychotherapy to take part in interviews.

See this link for further information: https://www.bacp.co.uk/events-and-resources/research/research-noticeboard/yelena-mikhaylova-o-connell/