'This Time it's Personal': A Heuristic Study of the Process of Becoming an Integrative Psychotherapist.

  • Cathal O'Connor

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


AbstractThe aim of this research was to explore my personal experience of becoming an integrative psychotherapist using Moustakas' theory of heuristic enquiry to facilitate thematic analysis of my own reflective journals. There is currently no agreed-upon method for trainees to go about constructing an integrative philosophy of practice or to engage in personal development. The literature is inconclusive as to what best facilitates learning in therapist trainees, and there is a paucity of empirical research on psychotherapy training. The research on the manner in which integrative therapy is taught has not developed in line with progress made in theory and practice. Personal development has been found to be useful overall, however the means of accomplishing this has not been agreed upon. Reflective writing in the form of personal journaling has been put forward as an appropriate method, for both personal and professional development. My reflective journal constituted the data in this study. The data was analysed using thematic analysis within a heuristic design framework. Therefore, I was both the participant and the researcher in the study. Themes which manifested from the analysis of the reflective journal were around personal development, ('trainee anxiety' and 'procrastination and boredom anxiety') and professional development ('making sense of theoretical ambiguity', 'searching for a needle of truth in a post-modern haystack', 'axiomatic 'truth' as a means of facilitating integration', 'the practical application of illumination'). The utility of constructing an integrative framework and a common factor or an integrative axiom to facilitate theoretically consistent integrative practice were found to be of value in terms of both practice and training. The findings are discussed in terms of my personal experience of constructing an integrative theory of practice and the contribution my heuristic investigation of reflective writing can offer to integrative psychotherapy training. Reflective writing for professional development and development of an integrative theory of practice was found to have utility in my training and was proposed as a reliable method for future trainees to utilise. It was found to be less useful and ethical in terms of personal development.Personal and professional implications are discussed. Strengths of the current research cited are its trustworthiness in terms of the quantity of data gathered and the reliability of interpretation that came from the fact that the participant was also the researcher. Limitations of the research are noted as being its potential to be seen as overly subjective. Future research directions are outlined in the form of further qualitative research looking into self-esteem and therapy outcomes and comparisons of the experiences of training with and without a reflective component.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWilliam West (Supervisor) & Clare Lennie (Supervisor)

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