The Angry Couple: A Qualitative Exploration of how Couple Counsellors Experience being Affected by Working with Conflict
AbstractThis small scale qualitative study explores an aspect of counselling that textbooks describe as often challenging for the counsellor, that of counselling an angry couple. The particular focus of this study is the experiences and meanings of counsellors who have identified that this aspect of their counselling work has had an impact upon them. Data was collected from five experienced counsellors, using semi-structured interviews. This was analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Five main themes emerged, these being labelled: childhood experiences, the disrupted self, a responsibility to manage, managing the impact and the developed self. The findings are consistent with the limited literature available and offer a valuable insight into the voice of the counsellor, a perspective that has been the subject of sparse research. The study indicated that counsellor discomfort with anger within the counselling room was frequently related to childhood experience within the family of origin. The analysis found that client anger commonly resulted in physical sensations in the counsellor, and that although experience moderated the feelings of anxiety experienced by the novice counsellor, some anxiety or discomfort continued to be present. Counsellors could also occasionally experience difficult feelings related to their own unresolved conflict or doubt. The results suggest that perceiving couple conflict heightens the counsellor’s sense of responsibility, which fuels a need to contain the emotional impact within the room and to hold the self of the counsellor safely in the face of emotionally strong forces. Managing the impact upon the self of the counsellor can continue after the session with the couple. In the long term however, the work can lead to both professional and personal growth. The relevance of the study outcomes to supervision, training and counsellors’ understanding of their own relationship with anger is discussed.
CitationHaywood, C. (2014). The angry couple: A qualitative exploration of how couple counsellors experience being affected by working with conflict. (Master's thesis). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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