Jenny: The conference was on Saturday 9 April at Leeds Beckett University and was a hybrid event, meaning a mixture of in-person and online presentations and attendees. The in-person conference was smaller in size with around 50 people and was a great opportunity to network with senior academics, practitioners, junior academics and PhD students.

It highlighted the importance of being at the conference in-person for us (the research team at BACP) because we can identify potential research collaborations to undertake higher impact work. 

There were plenty of breaks between sessions, which meant you could have conversations, put faces to names, and speak to people you would not otherwise have met or been aware of their work.

The programme included two keynote speakers; Professor Michael Barkham who spoke about psychological therapy outcome research, and Dr Jocelyn Catty who spoke about child psychotherapy research.

As a non-practitioner, it was also interesting to hear perspectives from both practitioners and researchers during the day. My own presentation focused on the development of a routinely collected data set to help develop an evidence base for university counselling services. I hadn't presented at an in-person conference for around four years due to the pandemic and it was a positive experience with my presentation being well received by the audience with some interesting questions and discussion.

The pre-conference was a smaller and more informal event than the actual conference with around 15 people attending, including the Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR) committee members, researchers and BACP research staff. A networking event was held afterwards, which provided a fantastic opportunity to talk to others about their research. As a part-time PhD student, I found it particularly valuable to discuss experiences of doing a PhD and the highs and lows with others in the same position.

Phaedra: As a research assistant at BACP and a post-graduate student in Cornwall, I often feel that my access to new research and networking opportunities is limited. However, as the SPR conference was a hybrid event it provided attendees, such as me, the opportunity to attend online and engage with researchers and practitioners in the field.

While I was not able to speak to attendees in person, the conference kept online attendees in mind by allowing us to interact directly with presenters through instant chat during Q&As. Furthermore, they ensured that online attendees had the opportunity to engage in real-time discussion. This was fantastic, as following the conference, I felt as though I still managed to truly connect with my peers in the field.

As Jenny describes, the conference showcased research which gave perspectives of both the academic and the practitioner. In turn, attendees were given access to both theoretical-based and practical-based research. What was particularly wonderful about the conference was their effort to bridge academia and practice, by showcasing presentations which covered research methodologies. This allowed attendees to gain a better understanding, which supports future research engagement and development. For example, Joel Vos presented Systematic Pragmatic Phenomenological Analysis, which proved to be a great opportunity to enhance existing skills and knowledge on qualitative research.

Furthermore, Dr Rachael Kelley’s presentation also touched upon qualitative methods, but discussed Ethnography in Practice. Rachael discussed the ways in which ethnography and psychotherapy complement each other, both theoretically and practically. I felt that this work truly served to connect practice with academia. The knowledge this has given me has come at an opportunistic time, as I'm due to begin my PhD this autumn, which will refer to body image –my research interests relate to appearance-related topics. It was also great to gain access to research which connects counselling and therapeutic practice with my personal interests, such as Michelle Oldale’s research, The Impact of Micro/macro-aggressions and Therapist Criticality in Psychotherapy with Fat Clients.

I was also given the opportunity to present my own research: They Need Somebody to Talk to: Parents and Carers Perceptions of School-based Humanistic Counselling. This qualitative research explored parents and carers perceptions and expectations of school-based counselling, as received by a group of young people (aged 13-16 years) in secondary schools within the UK. Being in the very early stages of my research career, this served as a great opportunity to disseminate the research that I've been carrying out with BACP and share the findings with our peers.

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