Using intersectionality to understand psychological therapists’ stories of professional development

Tsang, Swee Yee (2021) Using intersectionality to understand psychological therapists’ stories of professional development. DCPsych thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute. [Thesis]

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This narrative inquiry explores counselling psychology and psychotherapy’s understanding of professional development through the lens of intersectionality, a term first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw who drew on black feminist thought. This study aimed to address a gap in understanding of the wider social context of professional development within the psychological therapies, by examining the complexity of multiple developmental and social processes and influences on professional development.

Multiple interviews were conducted over a period of three to six months with three qualified psychological therapists who had at least five years’ experience of providing face to face therapy. These were analysed using a voice-centred relational method alongside intersectionality as a heuristic tool.

The findings show the individual narratives and intersectional analysis of each therapist. Three overarching key messages emerged from the findings. First, there was only partial acknowledgment of the influence of social divisions even when they appeared to play a significant role in therapists’ professional development. Secondly there were multiple mechanisms through which development took place. This included growth following adversity and clinical failure, harnessing of differences with resilience and creativity, identifying as a wounded healer, and mutual affect regulation with clients. The third is that through these mechanisms, the growth of therapists’ developmental selves mirrored the same growth in their social identities. These findings therefore suggest that the personal experience of professional development occurs at an intrapsychic, interpersonal, and social level.

These findings add nuance to the dialogue around diversity, equality, and inclusivity by moving away from single axis frameworks towards relational intersectional reflexivity, so that we can use language that better reflects the rich intricacies of this area. The findings also challenge the profession to acknowledge that all therapists are on an unequal playing field and offers recommendations for how training organisations, membership bodies, regulatory bodies, supervisors, and therapists themselves can better support their professional development and ethical practice.

Item Type: Thesis (DCPsych)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > Metanoia Institute
Item ID: 36681
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2022 16:13
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 16:19

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