Mental health provision for and needs of British Sign Language users: practitioners' perspectives.

  • Aliki Vasiliadou

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background and objectives: Despite a large amount of theoretical literature on best practices in deaf mental health, empirical research concerning hearing mental health professionals working with d/Deaf service users has been limited, with the majority of literature written in English and originating from the US. This study aimed to explore how UK-based mental health professionals speak about their professional experiences and training in deaf mental health, and their perspectives on deaf mental health provision. The goal was to identify areas of development for deaf mental health provision based on deaf specialists’ reported experiences. The foundational basis of this study is social justice and intersectionality theory as understood within counselling psychology, as well as multicultural and diverse therapeutic practice. Methods: a qualitative research design was employed, informed by Critical Realism. Semi- structured interviews were utilised with eight participants who are deaf specialists in mental health (clinical psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists), and their accounts were analysed using Dialogical Narrative Analysis. Analysis: None of the participants reported receiving formal training in working with d/Deaf clients, however, all identified informal sources of learning, and all were trained in British Sign Language. All participants reported challenges in their work in deaf mental health. Those were related to aspects of deafness (but not d/Deaf clients per se) such as cultural differences and conducting appropriate psychological assessments, as well as with liaising with (hearing and d/Deaf) professionals. Nevertheless, the main reported challenge was socio-political aspects of deafness, such as deaf education, poor mental health provision, lack of Deaf awareness in the community and historical oppression. Participants recommended best practices for deaf mental health practitioners, with some of them reflecting multicultural competencies and social justice practice, and they identified areas of development for deaf mental health services and public services. Conclusion and implications: Despite practitioners adapting practice to meet clients’ needs, there is a significant number of challenges originating outside deaf mental health that need to be addressed.
Date of Award31 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLaura Winter (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)

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