This collection contains the Doctoral and Masters by Research theses produced within the department.

Recent Submissions

  • A longitudinal study of an embodied-self-concept and its potential impact upon adjustment and acceptance in chronic non-specific lower back pain in female adults

    Reeves, Andrew; Mintz, Rita; Patel, Kim (University of Chester, 2023-07-18)
    Aim: Analgesia and surgical interventions have little impact in reducing the unpleasantness and intensity of chronic non-specific low(er) back pain (CLBP) and access to Pain Management Programmes is limited with inconsistent results. Individuals need to learn to live with their pain and this study explores how one's self-concept (in relationship with/to their body i.e., an embodied-self-concept) and pain might influence an individual’s perceived ability to accept/adjust to their CLBP and if this changes over time. Receiving support may influence adjustment/acceptance of CLBP, and this study seeks understanding of what those with CLBP want/need when their pain is self-managed outside of specialist pain services as these are currently unknown. Acceptance of CLBP is associated with improved life quality and a new dynamic model of change in CP which can accommodate the changing embodied-self and allow for movement between CP-acceptance/adjustment, non-acceptance/non-adjustment and anti-acceptance/non-adjustment over time is required to inform psychological practice. Methodology: A longitudinal multiple-case-series over 19 months using mixed-methods triangulation convergence/corroboration of three female participants explored the (potentially) changing embodied-self, from the pre-pain self to the present. Each meeting at approximately 9-monthly intervals consisted of semi-structured interviews and two measures: one explored CP-acceptance (Chronic Pain Acceptance Questionnaire: CPAQ) the other, dissonance between self-aspects (Possible Selves Measure in Chronic Pain: PSM-CP). Findings: Changes in the embodied-self-concept and related behaviours (e.g., task-persistence) were motivated by participants’ self-concept goals in growthfull and not-for-growth directions, thus self-acceptance and CP-acceptance are inextricably linked. The participants’ painful body part was placed ‘outside’ of the self as a separate entity demanding care and attention. The participants were often fearful and experienced shame, blame and two experienced suicidal ideation. However, counselling was not advocated by GPs and was not a consideration by participants. Conclusion: Counsellors in private practice and primary care with the necessary skills and knowledge are well placed to work with CP. Cultural and societal shifts in a non-dualistic understanding of CP and its treatment/management may make counselling a more acceptable adjunct. A new model of change in CP has been developed highlighting the role of psychological agility, choice junctions and self-re-evaluation as key components to/in change in both growthfull and non-growthfull directions. The wholesale adoption of the Buddhist-informed definition of CP-acceptance has been challenged.
  • Negotiating recovery following sudden bereavements: An autoethnographic approach to making sense of historical personal cumulative grief in the context of Covid-19

    Reeves, Andrew; West, William; Sweeney, Susan (University of Chester, 2023-09)
    We are all likely to experience bereavement during our lifetime. The impact of the loss is determined by many variables including age, intensity of relationship to the deceased, and social support systems. Traumatic sudden bereavement features additional causative factors of unfinished business, being unable to say goodbye, and sense of an incomplete life. The trauma of repeated sudden unexpected bereavement results in a potentially long-lasting disintegration of self that may lead to prolonged or complicated grief. The purpose of this qualitative study is to contribute to understanding of the lived experience of sudden bereavement and cumulative grief, what is meant by recovery and how it might manifest. It explores the impact of multiple losses, how sudden death can leave a traumatic imprint, and how each may be mitigated through life choices. This study aims to inform professionals and the bereaved in their understanding of sudden, unexpected bereavement in the context of widespread Covid-19 grief. An autoethnographical approach was used to explore the researcher’s lived experience as a young adult of sudden bereavement of three primary family members within a relatively short time span of seven years. All were traumatic losses, with one bereavement especially so. The resulting cumulative grief is investigated along with the researcher’s perception of progress and relapse in terms of recovery and sense-making of historical personal grief. The concept of posttraumatic recovery is explored in the context of the researcher’s personal experiences and linked to current sociological collective encounters with unprepared for, sudden death experienced by many during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data collection and analysis is a constantly changing interplay of interpretation and discovery. Continuous reflection of memories and emotional responses to the autoethnographic and personal journal writing, poems, and image-making provided data through which unexpected themes emerged, expanded, and evolved, leading to an increased level of sense-making that had been previously absent. This thesis adds to the limited extant literature on sibling and parental bereavement experienced by young adults aged 19-26 years, particularly that of multiple, sudden bereavement and cumulative grief. An individual’s experience of grief is profoundly personal and there is no definitive period of recovery that can be applied. The researcher’s isolating journey of historic traumatic bereavements is viewed within a culture where traumatic loss became an everyday occurrence during the Covid-19 pandemic. This proliferation changed the rhetoric from an individual to a shared experience, permitting the previously silenced to become heard, assisting readers to navigate their own experiences of grief, loss, and recovery through the lens of a more grief-informed society, and to inform professionals and affected others in their understanding and support of sudden ‘unprepared for’ bereavement during Covid related deaths and beyond.
  • An exploration of the emotional support needs of grandparents whose grandchild has had a childhood cancer diagnosis

    Gubi, Peter; Hill, Lynda A. (University of Chester, 2023-09)
    Little research has been conducted relating to the psychological impact on grandparents of grandchildren with cancer despite evidence to suggest that this can be challenging (Wakefield et al., 2014). This research explores the lived experiences of grandparents whose grandchild has had a childhood cancer diagnosis, taking specific interest in narrative relating to symptoms of distress, coping mechanisms, perceived emotional support needs, potential barriers to support and signs of post-traumatic growth. The impact of COVID-19 is also examined. Twelve grandparents were interviewed using semi-structured questions. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, an approach that is understood via examination of meanings people impress upon their experience. Five Group Experiential Themes are presented: role; impact; coping strategies and support needs; barriers to emotional support and lastly, hope, followed by their respective Personal Experiential Themes. Grandparents, without question, resume their parental role as their adult children retreat towards their childhood ‘nest’ to be protected and cared for. They also change their ‘hat’ to that of ‘parent’ to siblings of their poorly grandchild. This becomes a dominant role, often without warning, impacting greatly on their normal routine. Their own suffering is intentionally suppressed to give full attention to their child and family. Grandparents struggle to articulate their own needs as they automatically place themselves second. However, when pushed, there is a sense of wishing to be acknowledged as taking an active, primary care-giving role within their family, together with permission to process their own emotions in a way that suits their needs. A grandchild’s childhood cancer diagnosis can lead to signs of traumatic stress for grandparents. Yet they suppress their emotional support needs as their ‘parental nest’ is temporarily filled again. It is suggested that cancer support services work with parents to ensure that grandparents are also included in support-offers as a matter of course.
  • Delivering Public Services at a Time of Political Turmoil: The Impact of Risk and Austerity on the Charitable sector

    Taylor, Paul; White, Holly; Morley, Sharon; Price, Emma L. (University of Chester, 2022-09)
    The private and charitable sectors have become firmly embedded within the criminal justice system, where they are increasingly involved and accountable for delivering public services (Ismail, 2021). The distinctiveness of the charitable sector enables it to provide services and meet needs in ways that the statutory and private sectors cannot (Clinks, 2013; Corcoran & Hucklesby, 2013; Dayson et al., 2022). Consecutive governments have acknowledged the charitable sector’s essential role in criminal justice and recognised its unique ability to meet the complex needs of individuals who have contact with the criminal justice system. However, legislation, government policy and actions have caused greater reliance on the charitable sector. Utilising Foucault’s (1991) governmentality perspective, neoliberal ideologies have disadvantaged charitable sector organisations. Government actions based on privatisation, monetarism, and austerity have hindered the charitable sector’s capacity to deliver public services (Heydar-Cardwell, 2012; Marmot et al., 2020). The Transforming Rehabilitation programme implemented in practice in 2013 questions the government’s support for the charitable sector and its involvement in public service provision (Dacombe & Morrow, 2016). Legislation and government policy have had equally damaging effects on charitable sector service users. Criminality and mental health disorders are associated with highly derogatory labels. Stigma theories outline the grave consequences caused by stigmatisation. Individuals attached to these labels are stigmatised, socially excluded, and disproportionately impacted by multiple laws and policies (Goffman, 1963; Link et al., 1989; Pinel, 1999; Scheff, 1966; Tremlin & Beazley, 2022). Link and Phelan’s (2001, 2004) and Corrigan et al.’s (2004) notion of structural power shows how stigmatising labels justify punitive policy and action. During the 1970s, there was a growing political movement of conservative ideologies where liberal approaches were deemed ‘soft on crime’ and replaced with ideas around control and punitive punishments (Hardisty, 2004; Loader & Sparks, 2016; Spicker, 2022). The government’s political decision to enforce neoliberal policies and inflict austerity has caused extensive harm to the most vulnerable, stigmatised groups in society (Lavalette, 2017; Marazziti, 2021; Tremlin & Beazley, 2022). The social injustices and government failings to minority and vulnerable groups within society are a vital area for analysis and social change. This research aimed to critically explore the distinctiveness of the charitable sector and the impact and effectiveness of legislation, government policy and actions on the charitable sector. More specifically and uniquely, the study explored the distinctiveness, impact, and effectiveness of charitable sector practitioners’ perspectives. This research sought to provide a platform for the voices of charitable sector practitioners. The research’s timing adds to the study’s originality and its contribution to knowledge. The research critically explored practitioners’ perspectives post-implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. Data was collected in 2016, three years after implementation, to explore perspectives of policy in practice in detail. This study sought to provide a profound understanding of how the charitable sector continues to provide support services through a time of political turmoil and substantial probationary reform from the perspectives of those working in the sector. The researcher conducted 24 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with practitioners from 8 different charitable sector organisations. All practitioners, either in paid or voluntary roles, delivered mental health and well-being support services to offenders or individuals whom the criminal justice system deems at risk of offending. Thematic analysis was then conducted to interpret the data and identify emergent codes and themes. The findings revolved around two core themes: the distinctiveness of the charitable sector and the detrimental impact of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms on charitable sector organisations. Charitable sector practitioners expressed their invaluable and distinct role in meeting the needs of offenders and individuals whom the criminal justice system deem at risk of offending. Charitable sector distinctiveness lies in providing innovative, individualised, and holistic services that meet its service users’ multiple, complex needs. Yet, legislation and public policy, along with the government’s principal priority to cut public expenditure, have caused numerous complexities for charitable sector organisations. The perspectives shared about Transforming Rehabilitation are based on concerns and anxieties over the future of their services and how they will navigate through the continuing state of flux. Practitioners communicated how they feel exploited and believe the government has prioritised financial savings and perceived political support over meeting offender needs and protecting the charitable sector’s role. The thesis uses a combination of distinctive theories and first-hand accounts of delivering services in the charitable sector to deepen understanding of the complexities of providing public services in the charitable sector. Specifically, and uniquely, perspectives gathered at a time of radical change in the probation service provide a foundation for how the charitable sector has adapted during the early stages of the Transforming Rehabilitation initiative.
  • Exploring psychological growth in adult offspring following perceived parental rejection in childhood

    Gubi, Peter; Clare, Tracey (University of Chester, 2022-09)
    Much of the research around the experience of perceived parental rejection (PPR) in childhood focuses on the predicted outcomes and negative impact on the adult throughout the lifespan. This study is mindful of the body of PPR research and offers originality in focusing on the literature pertaining to the enabling factors that facilitate psychological growth, in a small-scale phenomenological study. The research question was, ‘What are the enabling factors which lead to psychological growth in adult offspring who have experienced perceived parental rejection in childhood?’ The aims of the research are to add to the literature base that explores post-traumatic growth, in offering data and debate specifically linked to the phenomenon of PPR, and to make suggestions for practice and further research in this domain. In addition, there is a consideration of coping subtheory pertaining to Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection theory (IPARTheory). Nine research participants, who self-identified as having experience of PPR in childhood, and who self-reported psychological growth in adulthood, were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2022) was used to elicit the depth and richness of the experience of both phenomena. Participants were encouraged to describe their childhood experiences with parental figures and the impact this had, before relating their experience of psychological growth. The process of IPA yielded four Group Experiential Themes (GETs): Experience of Rejection; Concept of Self; Conditions of Change and Experience of Psychological Growth. The Findings suggest that the inner resource of grit is instrumental to psychological growth and that the condition of safety in the social environment supports the development of greater resilience. The Findings are conceptualised in a salutogenic model. The Findings relate directly to counselling and psychotherapy practice and the wider spectrum of health and social care and service users, in that they enable greater understanding of the phenomenon of psychological growth following PPR, and the therapeutic conditions that may mitigate for the acute and chronic consequences predicted in the existent literature.
  • What is it like to stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS?

    Reeves, Andrew; Snell, Anthony D. (University of Chester, 2022-09-22)
    On the 23rd of March 2020, the citizens of the United Kingdom were instructed by the government to stay at home, to save lives and protect the NHS to manage the impact of Coronavirus. This thesis aims to contribute to understanding the personal impact of this instruction, particularly on those most vulnerable to the virus and instructed to shield themselves by avoiding face-to-face contact. A Narrative Inquiry methodology was used to understand the experience of six participants who had been living alone for twelve months. The government instructed each participant to shield in their home to avoid human contact due to the risk of serious harm or death that may result from catching COVID due to existing health conditions. Their stories were captured during a sixty-minute unstructured interview held over video or telephone. Participants' stories fell into three broad categories: stories about the impact of staying at home, their interactions with other people, and stories concerning broader social issues. Fear was central to many of the participants’ stories due to uncertainties at the time; the fear of how they will survive being alone, fear of others when they come close, and fear of an untrustworthy government and the impact of evolving social injustices. Each participant demonstrated great fear during this period, with the unquestioned narrative that they would die if they caught the virus. To manage this fear, participants used different strategies, including following the rules very strictly, keeping themselves distracted by filling their days, showing concern and helping less fortunate people, and associating themselves with a strong social network. Most significantly, all participants followed the rules as they wanted to protect their own lives, which is contrary to the dominant discourse that rules should be followed to save others’ lives and the NHS. This thesis tells the story of six individuals as they endured a terrifying period of uncertainty and demonstrated that when experiencing extreme circumstances, how adaptable and resourceful they were. Opening the door to six individuals and asking them what it was like for them illuminates how personality, history and circumstances impacted the experience of being faced with the possibility of death. Furthermore, this research provides an opportunity to get close to and empathise with six individuals that had a more extreme experience of the lockdown than most due to their existing health conditions, opening up alternative meanings to the pandemic. Although the pandemic was a period that caused great terror, it was also a time for these six individuals to pause and reflect on personal and social values, to notice what they were grateful for, and a desire to make things better for those who are less fortunate.
  • Surfing the Waves of Accountable Compassion: A qualitative study of the emerging trauma-informed culture within North Wales Youth Justice Service

    Dubberley, Sarah; Hughes, Caroline; Brierley-Sollis, Tegan E. (University of ChesterWrexham Glyndŵr University, 2022-07)
    The thesis describes a qualitative study of trauma-informed practice which draws on accounts of a sample of justice involved children and service providers in North Wales, in order to explore the practicalities of working within a trauma-informed paradigm and how it fits with key principles which exist within the Youth Justice Service (YJS). The study, which was theoretically informed by symbolic interactionism and hermeneutic phenomenology, used qualitative methods comprising semi-structured interviews with justice involved children as well as interviews and focus groups with service providers. The study findings indicate that there is a shift to moving towards working via a trauma-informed lens, and aims to embed trauma-informed practice into the fabric of the YJS. Certain elements within the YJS, namely the child-practitioner relationship, are more advanced with regard to being trauma-informed in comparison to other areas, some of which are external to the YJS. The thesis argues that in order to weave trauma-informed approaches and a culture of understanding into the identity of the YJS, consideration is required with regards to cultural hang-overs, stemming from previous practice, vicarious trauma and the position of relational practice. In conclusion, the thesis suggests that a trauma-informed cultural shift has many benefits for justice-involved children, not only in addressing their behaviour and the emotions potentially lurking behind it, but also in healing and helping to process past experiences. The experiences and contributions from participants in this study collectively advocate utilising a trauma-informed lens across the YJS. However, a cultural change requires careful management and consideration in order to protect staff, particularly from the imprint of trauma narratives and support children holistically. Where this is neglected, the path to trauma-informed could divert to trauma-organised.
  • What are the aetiology, drives and experiences of the non-sexual adult baby?

    Gubi, Peter; Reeves, Andrew; Sives, Amanda; Chollier, Marie; Maskery, Frances C. (University of Chester, 2022-09-30)
    Adult Babies (ABs) are predominantly categorised as paraphiliacs, kink practitioners or fetishists. However, whilst this may be true for some within the Adult Baby/Diaper Lover (ABDL) community, this stance does not consider a subgroup of the community whose practice is devoid of sexual or adult gratifications. A Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT) methodology was employed to capture the lived experience, historic and current, of a sample of the UK ABDL community by answering the question “what are the aetiology, drives and experiences of the non-sexual adult baby?” 10 participants were interviewed and the data analysed by single coder analysis. The key themes identified within the data were: a non-sexual process; a history of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs); early onset; the juvenile process is not limited to an infantile process; the juvenile configuration is not bound to gender; the process is experienced as intractable (until apposite therapeutic intervention); the juvenile process is inherently about affect management. From these findings a theoretical framework, Trauma Induced Age Regressive Process (TIARP), was developed. It is a finding of this study that, for this specific subgroup of the UK ABDL community, the aetiology of said behaviours lies in developmental trauma, itself a distinguishing feature demarcating this specific subgroup from the broader ABDL community. The data from this sample confirmed the presence of a discrete subgroup of the UK ABDL community whose experiences and drives are unconnected to paraphilic infantilism or fetishistic and kink practices. Additionally, as this thesis will evidence, this subgroup is vulnerable in the wider social milieu, their practice being erroneously conflated with paedophilic intent and being subject to sexual predation. The TIARP framework is introduced and discussed, as too are the implications and limitations of this research.
  • Anti-austerity politics and social media in the UK: political participation and non-traditional political organisations

    Bendall, Mark; Harris, Phil; Robertson, Christopher (University of Chester, 2022-03)
    This thesis examines how UK anti-austerity communities on Twitter have contributed to politics. The ‘age of austerity’ has embroiled much of the UK for over 10 years with little deviation from anti-austerity policies in governments occurring. It could be questioned what is the purpose of anti-austerity communities? Political researchers (e.g., Craddock, 2017, 2019, Harrison, 2020, 2021) have questioned ‘what is the point of anti-austerity activism on-the-ground’ and others have regularly attributed digital participation to pejoratively termed ‘slacktivism’ (Christensen, 2011, 2012, Rickett, 2013, Bendell, 2021). This thesis shifts attention to how anti-austerity communities communicate online and how digital publics receive and interpret these alternative messages. By constructing an original model entitled the ‘sixth-estate’, it is argued that anti-austerity communities online are chosen to be engaged with due to their provision of (1) an alternative perspective to mainstream agendas; (2), a desirable single-issue focus on subjectively salient issues; (3), the amplification of traditionally marginalised discourses and (4), they can affect political efficacy and foster political competence. The creation of this model is substantiated by data collected from a mixed-methods online survey and social network analysis conducted utilising the software NodeXL. The survey provided in-depth qualitative understanding as to why digital publics chose to engage with and consume information from digital anti-austerity communities. This was corroborated by social network analysis, where a semi-longitudinal quantitative dataset observed anti-austerity discourses to recognise how anti-austerity conversations were brokered, led, and what their purpose was. The social network analysis also featured a qualitative component, where applied thematic content analysis, mirroring the survey, was employed to unearth meaning within anti-austerity discourses and generate noticeable themes. In the period of study, these were (1) Twitter discourses contained a specific anti-austerity focus; (2) the presence of a pro-Corbyn, anti-Starmer agenda; (3), an evident anti-Tory sentiment; (4), explicit interconnection with COVID-19. This is underpinned by the theoretical framework of counterpublics (Fraser, 1990, Asen, 2000, Loehwing and Motter, 2009, Wonneberger, Hellsten and Jacobs, 2021). This is where political communities seek to contest dominant narratives and legitimise alternative discourses. Anti-austerity communities constitute visible counterpublics. This work contributed to knowledge on this area by recognising the subjective significance of anti-austerity communities and their democratically-significant contribution to UK politics.
  • An exploration of the helpful and hindering aspects of counselling and psychotherapy with Middle Eastern clients in England

    Gubi, Peter; West, William; Bin Hasan, Noof (University of Chester, 2022-03-01)
    Over the last few decades, there has been exponential growth in the demographics of diversity within British society. As a result, Britain is home to many ethnic groups, including at least half a million Middle Eastern individuals. However, when it comes to counselling and psychotherapy with Middle Eastern clients, there appears to be a lack of counselling and psychotherapy literature around the topic in Britain. Therefore, it is becoming more pertinent than ever for the mainstream profession of counselling and psychotherapy to understand the needs of the Middle Eastern population in Britain. This research explored the helpful and hindering aspects of counselling and psychotherapy with Middle Eastern clients living in England. The research aimed to understand the attitude of Middle Eastern individuals towards accessing counselling and psychotherapy support; to explore the helpful and hindering aspects of counselling and psychotherapy for Middle Eastern clients; and to identify the specific ways of relating and attributes utilised by counsellors and psychotherapists in delivering therapy for Middle Eastern clients in England. This research utilised a mixed-methods approach consisting of three distinctive phases. Phase One involved quantitively surveying (online) Middle Eastern individuals in England. This was conducted by employing the Short-Form (Fischer & Farina, 1995) of the Attitude Towards Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale (Fischer & Turner, 1970). 66 survey responses were analysed using the Online Bristol Survey. The purpose of Phase One was to understand the attitude of Middle Eastern individuals towards accessing counselling and psychotherapy support in England, as well as recruiting participants for Phase Two. The survey identified four contactable interviewees who had a lived experience of engaging with counselling as clients. The four interviewees participated in qualitative semi-structured interviews conducted in Phase Two to explore the helpful and hindering aspects of counselling with Middle Eastern clients in England from the client's perspectives. Phase Three focused on counsellors' and psychotherapists' perspectives who have engaged therapeutically with Middle Eastern clients in England. This involved qualitative, semi-structured interviews with six counsellors and psychotherapists who had self-selected to partake. Data gained from the interviews for Phase Two and Phase Three were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The main findings identified a sense of reluctance towards accessing counselling and psychotherapy support; a cultural stigma attached to mental health and counselling; cultural identity factors (i.e., language, religion and gender) that influenced the therapeutic process and relationship; challenges and helpful therapeutic practices; and the importance of cultural sensitivity when working with Middle Eastern clients. The findings of this research are transferable and significant in delivering culturally competent and congruent counselling and psychotherapy support to Middle Eastern clients in England. The findings also have implications for Middle Eastern clients, practitioners, trainers, supervisors, professional bodies, practice, therapy services and policies which need to be considered. Finally, the research findings generated knowledge to enhance our understanding of working effectively with Middle Eastern clients and delivered a sense of justice within the British counselling and psychotherapy literature in England. The research proposes recommendations for future research to consider.
  • An exploration of the impact of diversity and culture on the journey of faith and spirituality of the counsellor who is a Christian

    Gubi, Peter; West, William; Barton, Heather (University of Chester, 2021-09)
    Aim: The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of diversity and culture on the journey of faith and spirituality of the counsellor who is a Christian. This is an under-researched area. Method: The study explored the experiences of eight experienced counsellors who were also Christian. It was conducted by means of semi-structured qualitative interviews. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results: Analysis of data identified five superordinate themes: 1) thoughts on motivations; 2) perspectives on training; 3) experiences in supervision; 4) experiences of faith and spirituality; 5) experiences of diversity and culture. Discussion: The data revealed that participants believed their faith to be a vital part of their desire to become a counsellor. In spite of this, they received little preparation for the diverse clients they were to meet and found little support in the areas of diversity and culture, or faith and spirituality, in training or supervision. They also faced challenges to their own faith and spirituality. This has, however, resulted in what participants believe is a broader and deeper faith. A move to a new stage of faith, which they may not have reached had they not become counsellors, was also identified. Conclusion/Implications: Gaps in training and supervision were highlighted, and areas for further research are identified.
  • Falling into an abyss: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the lived experiences of the parents of autistic daughters in the UK

    Reeves, Andrew; Chollier, Marie; Chantrey, Lucy (University of Chester, 2021-11)
    Whilst research increasingly focuses on autism in girls, there is a dearth of literature around the experience of parenting an autistic daughter in the UK, with the few studies that do focusing only on mothers. The data was gathered through in-depth semi-structured interviews that explored the lived experience of parenting an autistic daughter for six mothers and two fathers, from their first concerns, through to the diagnosis, with life in-between and beyond. Their daughters were aged between eleven and seventeen at diagnosis and were diagnosed within the UK. IPA was used to analyse the data. Five superordinate themes were identified: Journey to diagnosis; Negotiating systems; Psychological impact; Living with an autistic daughter; and Reflections. The research demonstrates that the parents of autistic daughters find themselves seeking professional advice and support for a pervasive condition that, whilst better known for its familiar male presentation, appears invisible in its female form to all but those in their close family. The impact of the ensuing struggle to have their concerns believed and to obtain her autism diagnosis often has profoundly negative consequences, leaving families in crisis, chaos in daily life, and parents’ mental and physical health compromised. The subsequent delay in diagnosis means that their daughter remains unsupported in her education and social life, with the adverse ramifications of this reverberating throughout her family. The findings of this study have implications for parents, professionals, and the field of research in terms of the need for a better recognition and understanding of female autism, an apposite educational setting, and a holistic approach to family support.
  • How supervisee self-care is addressed in the clinical supervision of counsellors and psychotherapists: A qualitative exploration

    Gubi, Peter; Seabrook, Michelle (University of Chester, 2021)
    This research explored how supervisee self-care is, or isn't, addressed in clinical supervision, using a sequential qualitative method. The aims of the study were to analyse the process and dialogue used: to explore supervisee and supervisor understanding; how addressing supervisee self-care can be enhanced or maintained and how this can be implemented into training and practice. Both self-care and clinical supervision are ethical requirements. Counsellors and psychotherapists are not immune to personal stress and work-related well-being impairment. Clinical supervision can form part of a self-care strategy. Few studies have focussed explicitly on the combination of the topics. Few studies in counselling and psychotherapy have used a mixed sequential qualitative approach to investigate an aspect of clinical supervision. Four supervisory dyads were recruited. The study consists of three stages. Stage one required audio recordings of three consecutive clinical supervisions from each dyad, resulting in twelve supervision sessions. A discourse analysis, using a Discursive Psychology lens, was used to analyse extracts from the sessions where instances of supervisee self-care were observed. The discourse shows that there are discursive elements that enable, or limit, discourse on self-care. Stage two involved interviewing the supervisors from the dyad. Supervisees were interviewed in stage three. The data from the semi-structured interviews was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Superordinate themes for the supervisors were 'I am here', 'Where are you?' and 'We're the instruments'. Superordinate themes for the supervisees were 'Me, myself and I' and 'You and I'. The findings indicate that there is an interplay between experience, understanding and discourse. Issues around supervisee self-awareness, evaluations of self-care, the supervisory relationship, and early experiences of supervision impact on how selfcare issues are introduced and subsequently explored. Disclosure of self-care issues can be framed in tentative, or hesitant, language, which can link to the supervisees understanding of how acceptable self-care topics are in supervision. There can be a negative emotional response to disclosing self-care or feeling under scrutiny from the supervisor. Metaphor can assist with self-care disclosure. Supervisors can influence self-care exploration through demonstrating a shared understanding of a self-care issue. Laughter and dialogue that shifts the focus can limit addressing self-care. The study offers a means of transferring the results into practice: encouraging engaging in a discussion that explores the influential factors on addressing self-care in supervision. The findings of this study are transferrable rather than generalisable. There are implications for practice and training. Limitations of the study and areas for future research are identified.
  • ‘The Berwyn Way’: A Qualitative Study of the Rehabilitative Model at HMP Berwyn

    Hughes, Caroline; Gorden, Caroline; Prescott, Joanne A. (University of ChesterWrexham Glyndŵr University, 2021-07)
    Typified predominantly as ‘agencies of disempowerment and deprivation’, traditional prisons represent the antithesis of a rehabilitative setting (De Viggiani, 2007a, p.115). As such, the aim of this qualitative study was to explore the physical, psychological, and social implications of HMP Berwyn’s rehabilitative model (The Berwyn Way) from the perspective of prison residents and operational staff. As a single-site project, Berwyn was of particular interest because of its recent introduction to the UK prison estate. Opening in February 2017, Berwyn, a North Walian establishment, housing up to 2106 adult males, opened with an ambitious rehabilitative agenda which promised to normalise the prison setting by focusing on rehabilitative cultures and values, improved spatial design, therapeutic staff-resident relationships and a person-first lexicon which aimed to replace traditional prison terminology with inclusive alternatives. These are but some of the approaches listed under the ‘Berwyn Way’, and in addressing the many others, this thesis discusses the wider implications of Berwyn’s approach, and does so, with accounts from a sample of 20 prison residents and 20 operational staff, using semi-structured interviews. To capture further nuances, triangulation was utilised and included ethnographic observations and detailed fieldnotes. Thematic analysis of the triangulated dataset generated four themes: The Berwyn Way; Lifting the liminal veil between the outside and inside; Managing behaviour, and finally, Actions speak louder than words: rethinking prison language, relationships and interactions. Findings from the study did not support the expectation that Berwyn’s rehabilitative model would be broadly accepted, and instead there was some resistance to rehabilitative change, both from a resident and staff perspective. From a rehabilitative standpoint, there were however areas of notable best-practice, with certain operational areas encapsulating the essence of Berwyn’s rehabilitative model with consistent professional practice, acceptance to Berwyn’s overarching vision and a willingness to challenge the orthodox narrative of punitive imprisonment. The thesis concludes with observations surrounding the implications of the study for rehabilitative penal practice within prisons in England and Wales, and recommendations for future research.
  • 'Stress and sex: a complicated relationship’ Declining sexual functioning as a predictor for attritional stress and fatigue (ASF), resilience injury and maladaptive behaviours in a sample of British Army soldiers

    Reeves, Andrew; Buxton, Christina; Prentice, Julie-Anne (University of Chester, 2021-10)
    With high-tempo work, frequent separation and operational commitments, military personnel are at greater risk than most of developing a broad range of mental health concerns. Whether at war or in peacetime, soldiers are trained to be ready for combat. Such conditioning is responsible for teaching soldiers how to override their flight or fight response; to run towards danger when human instinct seeks to run away. So, whether soldiers are engaged in combat or training for readiness, the destabilising impact of overriding innate biological functions can impact on how a soldier recognises and manages stress. Stress is known to contribute to a number of physical and psychological functions that impact on sexual desire and performance, offering sexual functioning as a potential marker for resilience injury and wider mental health concerns. Aims & Objectives Psychological support for intimate relationships is particularly vital for soldiers and their partners and may influence recovery rates from the unique mental demands of the military. This study sought to understand if declining sexual functioning could be an early predictor of problematic stress and maladaptive behaviours. It aimed to define clear at-risk groups for increased stress to help clinicians target assessment for those most susceptible to resilience overwhelm and mental health concerns. Research questions The study focused on 6 main research questions related to stress, sexual functioning, online sexual activity (OSA) and compulsive sexual behaviour (CSB). Results hoped to demonstrate the correlation between stress and sexual function and to define areas of additive stress that may impact on wellbeing. Clinical aims sought to highlight at-risk groups and protective factors to support psychoeducation, assessment protocols and treatment pathways. Method A mixed-methods approach allowed for the collection of quantitative statistical data via a scored and validated survey providing correlation information on the four main variables: stress, sexual functioning, online sexual activity and compulsive sexual behaviours. A qualitative component collected personal statements, observations and remarks to provide context for the statistical results. With equal priority, this created a snapshot of soldier experience in relation to stress and sex which could help the identification of those soldiers at greater risk of psychological distress. The study was primarily underpinned by the theoretical framework of Bancroft and Janssen’s Dual Control Model. This model centres on the balance between an individual’s inhibitory and excitatory processes in the central nervous system. With particular relevance to this study and soldier behaviour, the Dual Control Model considers how excitation and inhibition are impacted by stress and how individual response may impact on sexual behaviour. Where inhibition is elevated, some may experience difficulties with sexual interaction related to performance anxiety for example and where excitation is increased, individuals may feel less restricted and may be willing to take more sexual risks. Results Results demonstrated a clear link between increased stress and declining sexual function offering psychosexual assessment as a useful diagnostic tool for psychological distress. Through statistical analysis, 7 groups were identified as most at risk of resilience overwhelm and poor stress appraisal with declining sexual functioning. These groups included soldiers who lived alone, those who lived overseas with their partners, Other Ranks aged 26-30 years old, Non-Commissioned Officers aged 26-30 years old, Commissioned Officers aged over 40 years, soldiers that had served between 1-5 years and those personnel who had served over 20 years. Soldiers in more than one of these 7 groups were likely to experience the highest levels of stress and declining sexual functioning, with up to 83% of sexual function variance attributed to stress. Within this study, predictive factors were categorised from personal narratives. At-risk soldiers were identified as either being exposed to greater disconnection or isolation, currently experiencing a life stage transition or within a period of increased occupational demand. Soldiers currently at relationship pressure points such as starting or ending an intimate relationship did not demonstrate a significance correlation between elevated stress and declining sexual function. Over 85% of soldiers admit to using the internet for sexual activity; however, the majority were at levels that were considered to be low risk. Personnel reported preferring to seek out human connection. Increased OSA was not correlated with loss of desire but it was strongly associated with a decline in sexual satisfaction. Compulsive sexual behaviour was not generally problematic. Results demonstrated that soldiers in this study were more likely to have increased sexual inhibition resulting in sexual difficulties rather than elevated excitation leading to risk taking behaviour. There were marked differences between male and female soldiers including the experience of stress, sexual function and online sexual activity, suggesting that psychoeducation and healthcare assessment should be appropriately targeted with the consideration of sex-specific interventions. More research on the psychological and physiological differences between male and female soldiers is urged. Implications for practice Whilst poor sexual functioning can be influenced by many factors, this study has concluded that sexual difficulties are positively correlated with increased stress within the British Army. Therefore, questions on sexual functioning could offer an important measure of physical, cognitive and emotional health. Psychosexual training would enable those clinicians that support at-risk soldiers presenting with stress symptoms to explore sexual functioning and behaviour as part of their patient wellbeing assessment. Soldiers could benefit from greater awareness of how personal agency and control can diminish the harmful effects of stress, whilst leaders should continue to be mindful of their direct impact on soldier wellbeing. Relationships form part of systemic resilience and contribute to soldier wellbeing, happiness and key life decisions. Army policy makers should be aware of the implications of soldier overwhelm and relationship strain in relation to financial, operational and retention decisions
  • Journey to wholeness: The psychotherapeutic role of Celtic spirituality

    Gubi, Peter; West, William; Smith, Andrew J. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
    Celtic spirituality, the Christian spirituality of Britain and Ireland which flourished in the middle of the first millennium CE, has enjoyed a modest revival at the turn of the current millennium. Existing literature focusses on theology, history and culture. This research asks the original question: “what is the psychotherapeutic role of Celtic spirituality?” It aims: to contribute to wider literature on spirituality and counselling by going deeper than previous studies of ineffable experiences through creative forms of inquiry; to find out whether and how Celtic spirituality helps participants’ wellbeing, growth and alleviation of distress; and to look psychotherapeutically at a form of spirituality, which as a holistic worldview that is optimistic about human nature, has some common ground with person-centred theory. Ten people pursuing an interest in Celtic spirituality each made a collage to represent their experience prior to, and as a starting-point for, a semi-structured interview. The data analysis comprised four stages: collage inquiry (beginning with participants’ own explanation of their picture and its elements); immersive listening to the interview recordings, briefly noting the content of each interview and what lay at the edge of their awareness; poetic inquiry, using symbolic or resonant words and phrases from each interview to re-tell the experience; and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to find themes. This original methodology of holistic qualitative inquiry concluded with summative work: a collage of the collages, word clouds of the immersive listening notes and a summative poem, “Journey to wholeness (God enfolding me, God in everything)”, comprising words and phrases from every interview, capturing every IPA theme and key words from the word clouds. The overarching, unifying IPA theme reveals Celtic spirituality to be an experience of integration and wholeness. This aligns with the actualising and formative tendencies of person-centred theory. From twenty-three subordinate themes I abstracted five superordinate themes, which also align well with aspects of person-centred theory: loving others and connection through community both particularly evidence unconditional positive regard and the latter also empathic understanding; feeling “at one with creation”, participants strongly experience the actualising and formative tendencies; being self both in the moment and through life both exhibit congruence.
  • Are children in care offered effective therapeutic support?

    Reeves, Andrew; Smith, Andrew M. (University of Chester, 2020-07)
    Aim - This thesis aims to answer the question as to whether or not the therapeutic support offered to children in care in the U.K. is effective. There are two parts to the question: ascertaining what the actual offer of therapy consists of; the quality of that offer in terms of therapeutic effectiveness. Background - children in care are significantly more likely than their peers to be involved in offending behaviour, substance misuse, and to be unemployed DfE (2019). There is evidence to suggest that unresolved developmental trauma can contribute to these outcomes (National Audit Office, 2015). It is unclear how focused the government is on supporting effective therapeutic recovery from developmental trauma. Method - Questionnaires were distributed to every local authority in the country, with approval from the Directors’ of Children’s Services. Interviews were attempted. A Foucaultian Discourse Analysis of key pieces of legislation in the field was then completed, and a Thematic Analysis of 28 studies into therapeutic recovery from complex developmental trauma was achieved. Key Findings- The study found that children in care are not systematically offered effective therapeutic support. In fact, there are multiple issues according to the quality of therapies on offer: there is a legal/political/organisational system that is dysfunctional: the offer of therapy is impossible to ascertain across the country; the way in which therapists research their own provision is laden with methodological, political, and ethical issues. However, the evidence supports the idea that we are aware of some key factors that help therapeutic recovery. Implications for Practice - The evidence provided a range of factors to support future development of therapeutic support to children in care, and supported a mapping out of the way in which therapies could usefully be developed in the future. The evidence led to the development of a model of best practice. Conclusion - The thesis ends with some recommendations as to how the profession of psychotherapy and counselling could begin to develop both their knowledge base and way of working with children care to support more effective therapeutic recovery.
  • A moment of love? Embodied experiences of relational depth in transactional analysis psychotherapy

    Gubi, Peter; Swales, Emma (University of Chester, 2020-10)
    This research project explores the question: ‘Can moments of relational depth be understood as a moment of love?’ The aims of the research were: to determine whether Transactional Analysis (TA) psychotherapists have experienced moments of relational depth; to explore their embodied and spiritual experience of this phenomenon, and to investigate participants’ interpretations of this experience. The research has sought to understand if these moments of intense, embodied attunement in therapy can be interpreted as moments of love. The study uses Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore the embodied experience of moments of relational depth in transactional analysis psychotherapy, by exploring the felt experience, understandings and conceptualisations of visceral experiences of moments of profound, intense connection in the therapeutic relationship. Thoughts, feelings and experiences of love in therapy are also explored. Semi-structured interviews of nine experienced Transactional Analysis psychotherapists are analysed and 5 superordinate and 26 subordinate themes are identified. The study found that TA psychotherapists do experience moments of embodied relational depth, and that this moment of relational depth can be described and understood as a moment of love. The participants were able to describe significant and similar physical and spiritual sensations that identified the experience. This phenomenon is also explored and understood as a moment of interpersonal physical synchrony. The participants interpreted this experience as being related to early infant-parent interactions, and as a transmission between themselves and their clients. All the participants described feeling love in the therapeutic relationship, and there were descriptions of the types of love that can occur in therapy. A definition of therapeutic love is also offered. The research data showed that for the participants in the study, therapeutic love is a fundamental aspect of therapy, both as a quality of the therapeutic relationship, and as a moment of embodied attunement. Therefore, the research suggests that training and supervision processes need to support trainee and qualified psychotherapists to explore and understand these phenomena. Identifying moments of embodied attunement requires an awareness of our internal experience. This suggests that a focus on the body and body awareness is an essential component of counselling and psychotherapy training courses. The integration of body psychotherapy into mainstream counselling and psychotherapy training will enable therapists to be open to experiences of embodied attunement in therapy. In addition, ongoing personal therapy for practitioners serves as an additional resource to underpin the safe provision of this profound therapeutic work.
  • A Thematic Review of Contemporary Accounts of Black and of White Residents in North-East Wales Towards Black/White Interracial Relationships

    Robbins, Mandy; Hamid, Sahar; Cairns, Andrew D. (University of ChesterWrexham Glyndwr University, 2019-04)
    Exploring accounts of relations between racial groups has been identified as a key focus within the social sciences, with the views expressed towards intermarriage between members of particular groups often presented as a barometer for wider intergroup attitudes. Studies concerning interracial relationships have been particularly rare in Wales and remain unexplored within North Wales; this study seeks to address this gap in the knowledge base. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six Black participants, six White participants, and one participant of mixed Black/White heritage, all residing within North-East Wales, to explore accounts relating to Black/White interracial marriage. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis and identified six overarching themes: Contact, Lack of Contact, Positive Views, Negative Views, Culture, and Colour-Blindness. Results indicated that the personal views of both Black and White participants towards the concept of intermarriage were mostly positive, though sources of societal opposition in the local area were also identified. Gradual increases in the racial diversity of the region were linked to greater levels of acceptance of people from racial minorities, though it was also noted that the social networks of both White and Black participants were relatively homogeneous, suggesting there are limited opportunities for contact to take place between the two groups. Cultural factors had considerable influence for Black participants and some accounts were provided relating to social exchange theory. Whilst the results cannot be generalised to the entire population of North-East Wales, or to the racial groups that participants came from, they provide rich detailed data on individual and societal views of Black/White interracial relationships in a region of the UK where studies of this type have been unprecedented.
  • “I too matter”. The experience and impact of a brief online self-compassion intervention for informal carers of those with a life-limiting or terminal illness: A mixed methods study

    Reeves, Andrew; Gubi, Peter; Diggory, Catherine J. (University of Chester, 2020-09)
    Aims: Being an informal carer of someone with a life-limiting or terminal illness (‘Carer’) often results in marked levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Yet, Carers have little available free time to devote to lengthy, well-being interventions offered outside the home. Carers also struggle to prioitorise their self-care, a factor which may help buffer some of the negative impacts of being a Carer. The aim of this research was to gain insight into Carers’ views and perceptions of the impact of a brief, four module, online self-compassion intervention for Carers which was created to improve wellbeing, increase self-compassion and develop self-care among Carers. In so doing, the research addresses gaps in the literature relating to self-compassion interventions for Carers and targeted self-care initiatives for Carers. Design: This predominantly qualitative study was undertaken in two phases. In Phase One semi-structured interviews with nine participants of a four module, one to one self-compassion intervention (iCare), delivered in person, were conducted and data subjected to a reflexive thematic analysis within a critical realist framework. Additionally, descriptive statistics were collected. The findings from Phase One provided a theoretical basis for the design and content of the online version of iCare, the intervention studied in Phase Two. Seven Carers completed the four module online self-compassion programme. Data were collected through individual module feedback, post-intervention online qualitative questionnaires and descriptive statistics. Findings: The reflexive thematic analysis of the data generated four overarching themes: The Myth of SuperCarer; Get with the programme!; ‘Being kinder to myself’; and Everyone’s a winner. These explored how participants approached iCareonline, the impact engaging with it had on their well-being and highlighted how participants developed self-care through gaining permission to recognise their own needs. Improvements in psychological well-being and increases in self-compassion were reflected in the quantitative findings. In line with critical realist methodology, a causal mechanism was proposed explaining the development of self-compassion and conscious self-care among participants based on a cyclical model of Carer self-compassion. Implications: This study has relevance for: healthcare practitioners as the findings suggest that these professionals have a key role in legitimising Carer needs and fostering permission in Carers to practise self-care; counselling and psychotherapy professionals who work with Carers who are well-placed to challenge barriers Carer-clients may erect in the face of encouragement to practise self-care and self-compassion. Some of the content of iCare may prove useful to those therapists adopting a pluralistic approach when working with clients who are carers. Finally, teachers of mindful self-compassion could note the importance of the permission-giving aspects of a self-compassion intervention and the role it plays in developing conscious self-care in participants.

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