Swimming against the tide: Therapists’ accounts of the relationship between p/Politics and therapy

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Abstract

Objectives: There has been an increasing emphasis on ‘social justice’ across applied psychology, counselling and psychotherapy. Nevertheless, despite hints at the political nature of this concept and work, limited prior research has considered the connection between politics and therapy. This research aimed to explore therapists’ understandings and experiences of politics in their work. Design: An exploratory, qualitative methodology was used. Methods: Data were generated via a qualitative online survey, and analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis. Results: Five main themes were generated: (1) Swimming against the tide: working against p/Politics in therapy, (2) Therapeutic work as p/Political, (3) “We have to park our impressions of politics at the door”, (4) Professional ethics and p/Politics: striking a balance, and (5) “A culture of silence”: lack of training and support. Conclusions: This analysis suggests that therapists’ experience p/Politics as influencing therapy in a myriad of ways. It is both something inherent to therapy and something external, which exerts an influence on the work. Attending to the p/Political and the ethical in therapy can be challenging and is experienced as a lonely and unsupported process at times. Implications for practice and training are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2021

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