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An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the lived experience of traumatic bereavement on therapists’ personal and professional identity and practiceGubi, Peter; Mintz, Rita; Broadbent, Jeanne R. (University of Chester, 2015-10)The self of the therapist is widely recognised as being a crucial component in the therapeutic relationship. However, comparatively little is known about the therapist as a person, or of how life-changing events in therapists’ personal lives may impact on their professional identity and practice. The aim of this phenomenological study was to explore the impact of traumatic bereavement on the personal and professional lives of qualified humanistic therapists in order to shed further light on this under-researched area. Underpinned by a phenomenological-hermeneutic philosophy, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was selected as the methodology most appropriate to reveal participants’ lived experience. Purposive sampling was used to recruit a homogenous sample of eight humanistic therapists who had experienced traumatic bereavement while practising. Data comprised interview transcripts, participants’ reflective writing and researcher field notes. IPA’s idiographic approach facilitated the creation of a detailed and nuanced thematic analysis of the phenomenon, grounded in participants’ voices. Five super-ordinate themes were created from the interpretative phenomenological analysis, each of which provides a complementary ‘lens’ through which to view participants’ holistic experience: ‘Significance of context’, ‘Confronting a changed reality’, ‘Re-learning the world’, ‘Facing professional challenges’ and ‘Personal and professional reciprocity’. Findings reveal the unique contextual and multi-faceted nature of traumatic bereavement, and suggest that this experience can profoundly impact on therapists’ personal and social identities and beliefs. The professional challenges faced by grieving therapists are also highlighted. Findings illustrate that through a reciprocal process of personal and professional integration, the experience of facing, and living through grief, can lead to therapists’ increased self-knowledge, understanding, empathy and authenticity that informs and enhances their therapeutic practice. Supportive supervision and continued self-reflection are evidenced as significant mediating factors. The research demonstrates that the process of integrating the experience of traumatic bereavement into the therapist’s personal and professional life is a continuing and oscillating process. It is crucial that therapists carrying this burden have opportunities to reflect on this process in supportive supervisory relationships in order to pre-empt and ameliorate difficulties they may face in client work. A greater understanding of therapist bereavement is needed across the profession.