Call for participants – qualified counselling psychologists

Lai Tang is undertaking a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton. She would like to invite counselling psychologists with a minimum of 1-year experience post qualification to help with her research:


Social class can be viewed as a psychological construct: how people experience their social class influences their psychological understanding and social experiences. This study is interested in counselling psychologists’ perceptions of social class within the therapeutic dyad. You do not necessarily need to feel that social class has been a prevalent aspect of your client work to partake.

This study aims to recruit 8-12 counselling psychologists with a minimum of 1-year experience post qualification. The study will take place in the form of a face-to-face interview that will last 60-90 minutes and you will be sent an eligibility and demographics questionnaire to complete prior to the interview.

This research project is supervised by Dr Lyndsey Moon and Dr Edith Steffen. It has been approved under the procedures of the University of Roehampton’s Ethics Committee.

Your participation will be highly appreciated and have great value to the field of Counselling Psychology. If you are interested in participating please contact the researcher, Lai Ying Tang:

Twitter: @L4IT4NG



Please share the above links with anyone who might be interested.  Thank you in advance!

Criticality is critical in your literature review

Examine carefully the behaviour of these people:
Find it surprising though not unusual
Inexplicable though normal
Incomprehensible though it is the rule.
Consider even the most insignificant, seemingly simple
Action with distrust. Ask yourself whether it is necessary
Especially if it is usual.
We ask you expressly to discover
That what happens all the time is not natural.
For to say that something is natural
In such times of bloody confusion
Of ordained disorder, or systematic arbitrariness
Of inhuman humanity is to
Regard it as unchangeable.

Bertolt Brecht’s comedy The Exception and the Rule was written in 1930 and first performed in 1938. It begins with this prologue, in which the actors advise their audience on how to pay attention to the material to follow.

A few things (not many) I know about Bertolt Brecht. He was born in the Black Forest in Bavaria. He was a life-long Marxist. He was a poet, producer and playwright. In 1930, he moved from Munich to Berlin. By the end of the same decade, fearing Nazi persecution, he had fled to Stockholm, then to Helsinki, then to the US. In 1947 he was interrogated in Washington by the House Un-American Activities Committee, an organisation set up to investigate subversion. Brecht denied being a member of the communist party, but opposing camps of East and West were apparently both disturbed by his work during the Cold War, because, it has been argued, his work set out to disturb rigid polarities.

What else? Elizabeth Wright (2016) suggests we should think of Brecht as a postmodernist avant la lettre. He was sceptical of the grand narrative – the general truths, the absolute rights and wrongs, the great heroes or villains and so on – and yet he believed in producing knowledge that was useful and shareable publicly. Unlike social constructionists attempting to uncover tacit, underlying discourses, Brecht’s plays set out to perform this deconstruction ‘live’, to act it out, as it were. He was famous for the Verfrendungseffekt – the ‘estrangement’ or ‘alienation’ effect – where, in gestic style, as above, actors appealed to their audience to participate actively in the deconstruction of meaning during the performance. Specifically, the audience was encouraged to retain a feeling of un-familiarity, so that previously imagined ideas of reality could be thoroughly disrupted.

So to the opening of The Exception and the Rule. Wright suggests Brecht is inviting us into a dialectic about comedy, which goes something like this:

  1. Thesis: Comedy is a natural, innate, universal phenomenon.
  2. Antithesis: Comedy is historically and culturally situated.
  3. Synthesis: (a new thesis, both 1 and 2) We can laugh naturally at our own historically and culturally situated humour. This ‘both and’ moment in the dialectic is an ideal ground for new knowledge, change and social transformation. Laughter is directed “at the amusement of an audience which is learning to perceive its historical advantage” (Wright, 2016, p. 51).

OK, enough is enough. What has this got to do with critical literature reviews (and doctoral research proposals)?

I think a critical literature review could be thought of as a performance a bit like one of Brecht’s plays. As a move away from the received wisdoms of undergraduate psychology, and other received wisdoms. As a process that involves un-learning. Interrogating the familiar. Retaining the un-familiar. Taking nothing as read. Treating everything with distrust. Holding on to difference. Who said that? About whom? With what words? Where did those words come from? Why? What might have been the motives? What were the rules, and what were the exceptions? As a process that transforms and generates something new for all concerned, including for you. Not as an assembly of universally or objectively true statements, the solving of a problem, the completing of a jigsaw puzzle, a definite conclusion, 2+2=4.

What could this mean in practice? A few thoughts…

  1. When citing material, put it into context. The literature review is an exchanges of perspectives. How much contextual detail you offer about the theories or studies you cite will depend on how central they are to your narrative. But for instance, avoid sentences such as: Smith and Jones (1996) reported that women prefer iced coffee to hot coffee in the Summer. This sentence takes up an expert knowledge position. It implies that women are all the same across the world, and when it comes to women, coffee, iced, hot, and Summer, there is just one reality, one ‘natural’ ‘normal’ or ‘rule’. Instead try: In the context of a qualitative thematic study among a small sample of female White British undergraduate students aged between 18 and 25, Smith and Jones (1996) suggested that… This sentence implies that knowledge is bound by context. Think of Heidegger, if you like, and ‘dasein’ – there-being. ‘There’ comes before ‘being’… from our ground comes our perspective. There is no view from nowhere…
  1. Choose your verbs with care. Avoid verbs like: showed, pointed out, identified, found, demonstrated, reported. These verbs belong in a world of experts in (one) reality. Remember positivism means one way of knowing (epistemology) about one reality (ontology). Pluralism means more than one, of both. Dialectical pluralism goes further and embraces contradiction and incoherence (Mitchell, 1982). Better verbs might include: suggested, implied, interpreted, argued, seemed concerned with, in the context of, in relation to…
  1. Develop a questioning attitude. Towards the material you cite, but more generally, towards knowledge, reality, others, and yourself. Take a step back and adopt an observational stance, as much as this is possible. Find things unfamiliar, and try to retain this as a motivating factor. Think of a skilled clinician, always interested to find out more, always interested in the words the client chooses, giving space for discovery and interpretation, not imposing… can you adopt the same relational attitude to the material you are reviewing? Notice what you regard as normal and usual. Watch out for your own rhetoric or sentences containing words such as unsurprisingly, inevitably, surely, certainly or interestingly – apart from being poor academic English, ask yourself where you are coming from: who am I trying to persuade, and of what? What can I not let go of? What are my desires, fears, rules? Watch out also for sentences of the form x is y, or sentences containing always, never, should, completely, everyone, no-one… Why am I eliminating difference, and what am I assuming? Consider using perhaps and contingent verbs: may, might, could, seem. Write a statement about your involvement as a process. This is your reflexive statement.
  1. Reflexivity does not equal bracketing. I agree with ethnologist and psychoanalyst George Devereux’ suggestion (1967) that researchers, not unlike therapists, must attend to their counter-transferences as the true data of research. Part of the process of your research will be getting to know, owning and using your own part in the exchange. In my limited experience, research is often very personal, perhaps the most personal part of training, the point of maximum pain, even. It might go something like this: I had experience x, so I wanted to find out more, and to help. Although it is not always like that… my involvement in my own doctoral research did not relate directly to a specific experience I had but turned out to be more of a process issue to do with my need to arbitrate and difficulty taking a stand. In any event, if you can, aim to avoid: I had experience x, so I wanted to find out more, and to help. However, I will try my best to bracket that off. What if we are all involved in each other’s pain, or humour, or whatever it might be? Unless you are an essentialist phenomenologist like Edmund Husserl, you won’t think it possible to separate from the rest entirely, or at least, how much you believe you can do this will depend on your philosophical position. I think it is precisely by attending carefully to other people’s points of view or experience that we get to see our own more clearly. As Linda Finlay suggests (2002), inter-subjectivity is not a problem but an opportunity in research – and being involved, affected and changed by your research (including knowing that you are, and how) is part of researching ethically (Willig, 2012).
  1. Criticality is a challenge. It is a challenge to adopt a critical attitude and to hold on to uncertainty, difference, and perhaps even incoherence in a literature review. It is a task that most counselling psychologists undertake in their first, Masters level, year of study. Criticality is what makes mastery out of a Masters. The capacity to see that all knowledge is contingent and perspectival, that it has uncertainty built into it, and that this is what we can know for sure. Perhaps, again not unlike therapy, we are somewhere on the border between what Wilfred Bion might call K (knowledge) and minus K (knowledge resistance) (Bion, 1962). What is the point or what is the aim? The quality of the next question we can ask. The doctoral question that goes beyond mastery – now it is time to add something and make a contribution. So to the (new) thesis, the new thing we can put forward, which we hope in however modest a way, will represent new knowledge, and generate change and social transformation. Until the next time…


Dr Isabel Henton is an associate at London Counselling Psychologists, where she offers supervision and consultation on trainee research from literature review to viva.



Bion, W. R. (1962). Learning from experience. London: William Heinemann.

Brecht, B. (1979). The exception and the rule. In J. Willett, & R. Manheim (Eds.), Collected plays: Part One. The mother. The exception and the rule. The Horatii and the Curiatii. London: Methuen. (Original work first performed in 1938).

Devereux, G. (1967). From anxiety to method in the behavioural sciences. Paris, France: Moulton & Co.

Finlay, L. (2002). Negotiating the swamp: The opportunity and challenge of reflexivity in research practice. Qualitative Research, 2(2), 209-230.

Mitchell, W. J. (1982). ” Critical inquiry” and the ideology of pluralism. Critical Inquiry, 8(4), 609-618.

Willig, C. (2012). Qualitative analysis and interpretation in psychology. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.

Wright, E. (2016). Postmodern Brecht: A re-presentation. Abingdon, Oxford: Routledge.




Call for participants – trainee counselling psychologists

Joy Kokkalis is undertaking a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at University of Surrey. She would like to invite trainee counselling psychologists to help with her research. Here is her recruitment advert:

  • Are you a trainee counselling psychologist?
  • Do you have experience of clinical practice with at least one client who meets the DSM diagnostic criteria for ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’?
  • Are you under supervision for your clinical work?

If the above 3 criteria apply to you, then please read the following as it may be of interest to you…

I am currently looking to recruit participants for my qualitative research project exploring trainee counselling psychologists’ experiences of working with clients who meet the diagnostic criteria for ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ (BPD).   I am interested in interviewing trainees who are currently working, or have worked, with clients who meet the DSM diagnostic criteria for ‘BPD’.

You should only participate if you want to; choosing not to take part will not disadvantage you in any way.  The interview can be used as an opportunity for engaging in reflection-on-practice which is an essential ingredient of your training.

This study has received ethical approval from the University of Surrey, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences Ethics Committee.  If you have any questions about this study or are interested in taking part, please contact me on: – or alternatively you could contact my research supervisor, Dr. Elena Manafi, on:

Call for participants – DBT therapists

Samantha Dewhurst is undertaking a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at University of Surrey. She would like to invite DBT therapists to help with her research. Here is her recruitment advert:

This study aims to learn more about how therapists experience the therapy relationship with their clients who meet the criteria for BPD. The data will be subject to a discourse analysis with the intention of improving our understanding the discursive practices – professional and beyond – that therapists draw on to make sense of their experiences of the therapy relationship with clients who meet the criteria for BPD.

You are eligible to take part in the study if you are working or have recently worked as a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) individual therapist and you would be willing to spare one hour of your time, at your convenience, to tell me about your experiences in the form of a of a semi-structured interview which will be recorded. All information you provide will be anonymised and kept confidential.

This study has been reviewed by the School of Psychology Ethics Committee, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and granted favourable ethical approval (Ref: FT-PSY-170-15).

If you have any questions about the study, please contact me at or my supervisor, Ben Rumble at

How to fail your psychodynamic case report

In my current and previous course team roles, I’ve been responsible for courses that attempt to teach psychoanalytic theory to trainee counselling psychologists. The usual means of assessing this is the case report, where the trainee writes up a piece of work where they have attempted to intervene psychoanalytically, or sometimes, a piece of work that they have carried out in another therapeutic orientation, reformulated psychoanalytically.

I’m often asked how to pass these case reports, and am always stuck, because to my mind, there is really no recipe for passing a case report.  I was required to give a lecture recently with the implicit demand of ‘how to pass’, and in thinking about how to do that, I came across similar presentations on different topics with, tongue firmly in cheek, lots of advice on how to fail.  ‘I can write about that’, I thought to myself.  Because there may not be a sure-fire way to pass, but there certainly are predictable ways to fail, which, if you avoid them, will certainly increase your chances of passing.  So I present to you my Top 10 Tips on how to fail your psychodynamic case study.

1: Context
To fail: Note many important factors in the context, such as similarities/differences between you and the patient, challenges to the frame, etc. and never mention them again

To pass:

  • Formulate how the patient’s relation to frame and difference relate to their problem
  • Analyse these as potential transference dynamics to be considered and possibly worked with
  • Consider the patient’s suitability for psychodynamic work, and time-limited work (where appropriate) – and yours

2: Assessment
To fail: Fill up half the report with intricate details about the patient’s family and early life, without mentioning these in the formulation or working with them in the treatment

To pass:

  • Ensure that hypotheses in the formulation are backed up with relevant assessment information
  • Ensure that early dynamics are well formulated, repetitions considered, and attended to in the intervention, ideally evidenced in one of the extracts

3: Formulation
To fail: Include a number of different psychoanalytic theories, some of which directly contradict, with no logical order or structure

To pass:

  • Ensure theories are complementary (integrative vs. eclectic)
  • Ensure the formulation can theorise the unconscious dynamics you encountered and worked with

4: Treatment plan

To fail: Describe a psychodynamic treatment in very general terms, with no rationale, no link to the formulation, and no plan for what you were intending

To pass:

  • Ensure strong links between theory, formulation, plan and intervention
  • Why a psychodynamic treatment? Why a Kleinian one? Why not an established brief model like DIT (etc)?

5: Extracts
To fail: Choose extracts which have nothing to do with psychoanalysis

To pass:

  • Extracts should ideally show your ability to translate theory/formulation into practice/intervention
  • Where not possible, use the commentary to discuss an alternative intervention, think about what went wrong, etc.

6: Countertransference
To fail: Identify several ways in which you fail to be helpful, such as not being brave enough to interpret, fearing failure, being new to the model, etc, blaming yourself entirely

To pass:

  • Consider how these might reflect transference pulls from the patient – how do they recruit people to this position? Are you getting a sense of what it’s like to be them or someone in their world?
  • What in you receives and believes such projective and identificatory processes? How does this aid or hinder the treatment?

7: Problems with the patient
To fail: Blame the patient for being insufficiently psychologically minded, resistant, etc.

To pass:

  • “Resistance is on the side of the analyst” – what are you resisting of theirs?
  • Consider your own impositions in expecting patients/analysis to be a certain way – what does this re-enact for the patient?

8: Problems with the formulation
To fail: Blame the model, and suggest that you should have done CBT or person-centred work after all

To pass:

  • What about the patient’s un/pleasure (or yours) got in the way of what they (said they) wanted to achieve?
  • Formulate this within model before considering alternatives
  • What does your wished-for alternative say about what the patient was ‘really’ hoping for from therapy?

9: Problems with the supervisor
To fail: Blame the supervisor for being too absent, too critical, too kind, and generally neglectful, abusive and sadistic

To pass:

  • Consider your part in this. What would you have needed to do to understand the patient better in supervision? Why didn’t you?
  • What parallel processes did you and your supervisor engage in, similar to you and the patient, and their system?

10: Perfection
To fail: Bluff over-coherence, over-integration, and complete characterological change in yourself and the patient or punish yourself for not achieving them

To pass:

  • Be honest about what did and didn’t ‘work’ and what you did and didn’t know
  • Formulate problems without blame, being realistic about the limits of the patient, the context, and your own training
  • Help the markers assess your awareness of dynamic theory and practice, rather than wishing for perfect analysis
  • How might you begin or formulate the work differently now?

And my best advice from my own training supervisor, to you:

Tell the truth …

  • what you did – who said what to whom
  • why you did it – what theory/ies underlined these interventions?
  • how you think differently now – about the patient, about yourself, about the theory, about psychoanalysis!

Good luck with failing to fail … and remember that at London Counselling Psychologists, we can offer psychoanalytic supervision and consultation on your client work and academic reports.

Dr Russel Ayling

Autonomy, change and imagination in a brave new world

In this blog post, trainee counselling psychologist Anastasios Argyropoulos reflects on Paul Verhaeghe’s article ‘Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us’.


In one of his articles in the Guardian, Paul Verhaeghe shared views that are eloquently elaborated in his book What about Me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-based Society. He invited us to think over the effects of economy on our values and personalities, reminding us of our tendency to think of our identities as stable and separate from outside forces. Drawing from his own research and therapeutic experience, Verhaeghe argues that long standing neoliberalism and free-market forces have shaped social conditions whereby certain personality traits are favoured over others. The favoured characteristics for a successful career in meritocratic neoliberalism: characteristics such as talking up our abilities, opportunism, being able to lie without feelings of guilt, impulsivity and risk-taking, according to the author, are not really that far off traits found in psychopathic personalities. Continue reading “Autonomy, change and imagination in a brave new world”

Call for participants – Mental Health Professionals

call for participants

Tarynne Quirk is undertaking a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at City University London. She would like to invite qualified mental health professionals to help with her research. Here is her recruitment advert:

The aim of the study is to investigate mental health professionals’ (MHPs – Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Counsellors, CBT therapists, Art therapists, Psych Assistants, PWPs etc.) implicit and explicit weight attitudes toward their clients.  Willing participants would be asked to complete a computer-based task consisting of a brief questionnaire and the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a 3-5 minute video clip, before being re-tested.  Participation would involve one session which would last approximately 25-35 minutes. All the information collected will be made anonymous and kept confidential.

Testing can be done at a time and place that is convenient for you. If you would be interested in participating, and would like to be sent a participant information sheet, please contact: Tarynne Quirk on 079 1057 1340 or This research is supervised by Dr. Jessica Jones-Nielsen ( and Dr. Don Rawson (  You may also have colleagues who would perhaps find this study of interest, if so, please feel free to pass on my details.

This study has been reviewed by, and received ethics clearance through the Psychology Department Research Ethics Committee, City University London. Ethics approval number Reference: PSYCH(P/L) 14/15 143. This study has been reviewed by, and received IRAS clearance through the HRA. IRAS approval reference number: IRAS 181903.

Taking collaboration to a deeper level: A counselling psychology stance to psychological… — Medium

In her own blog post, counselling psychologist trainer Edith Steffen gives her thoughts on formulation and pluralism in counselling psychology.

Source: Taking collaboration to a deeper level: A counselling psychology stance to psychological… — Medium

Call for participants – qualified counselling psychologists

call for participants

Farah Mitha is undertaking a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at City University. She would like to invite qualified counselling psychologists to help with her research.  Here is her recruitment advert:

Mindfulness is seen to have particular relevance to the work of counselling psychologists. However, there is limited research around the experience of psychologists delivering this intervention, especially those who have not received formal training (i.e. 8-week mindfulness training), or supervision with an accredited mindfulness teacher.

This study aims to capture the nuanced essence of these counselling psychologist’s experience of mindfulness in their private and clinical lives.

I am looking for counselling psychologists who practice mindfulness privately and informally – that being you incorporate mindfulness activities in your daily life such as mindfulness breathing, checking their awareness and attention thought the day and being mindful during daily activities (i.e. walking, eating) and incorporate it in your clinical practice (i.e. through mindfulness interventions or mindfulness based therapies such as ACT, DBT).

You should not have received formal training in mindfulness via an authorized mindfulness centre (i.e. 8 week training or more), and you should not be practicing mindfulness under the regular supervision of a trained mindfulness teacher (i.e. individually or within retreats).

Your participation would involve one interview session, of approximately 60 minutes. All the information collected will be made anonymous and kept confidential

For more information about this study, or to take part, please contact:

Farah Mitha on 07958 340011 or research is supervised by Dr. Daphne Josselin

This study has been reviewed by, and received ethics clearance through the Psychology Department Research Ethics Committee, City University London. Ethics approval number Reference: PSYETH (T/L) 14/15 235


Resources for your doctoral research

qq1sgmessydeskWhen I’m supervising doctoral theses, I’m often surprised at the extent to which trainees are unaware of the high quality resources that are around to help.  So I’ve put together some of my favourites, but do feel free to let me know any of your favourites that I’ve missed!

Continue reading “Resources for your doctoral research”