How therapists understand their experiences of working at a depth of engagement in therapy: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Joan Eilbeck


This research provides in depth analysis of how qualified and experienced doctoral therapists and graduates of the professional doctorate counselling programmes, understood and made sense of their experiences in working at a depth of engagement in therapy. A qualitative approach of interpretative phenomenological analysis is the methodology used. This provides rich, detailed analysis of individuals' accounts where idiographic focus and participants' lived experiences remain central. Six Doctoral counselling therapists were individually interviewed via a semi-structured interview schedule. Participants' counselling orientations varied, with most describing themselves as integrative practitioners. Six accounts were examined separately and then analysed. Clusters and themes developed. Themes were also analysed to ascertain convergence and divergence in participants' accounts. Implications are discussed with data rooted in verbatim extracts and embedded within relevant literature. The study presents super-ordinate themes of, 'the indefinable', 'spiritual in nature', 'levels of encounter', 'dissolution of boundaries', 'personally challenging', 'nourishing of the self' and 'professional questioning'. Findings show how participants called upon phenomenological perspectives, epistemological lenses, spiritual and neurobiological discourses and counselling theory, used interchangeably, to try and understand their experiences. The study also points to practitioners crossing interpersonal boundaries, their fear of being judged by the counselling community and their reluctance to take certain aspects of the phenomenon to supervision. The implications of the research highlight whole areas of experiencing that are not being supervised and show challenges on many levels for the counselling community. Such an IPA study also highlights divisions and commonalities in how participants make sense of the phenomenon and a contribution is offered indicating where further research would be helpful. Overall this research study invites a greater awareness and greater openness to understand the ripples and challenges practitioners face from working at a depth of engagement.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Elizabeth Ballinger (Supervisor)
  • William West (Supervisor)
Award date1 Aug 2017