• An exploration of the experiences of working with the topics of sex and sexuality within counselling and psychotherapy training and practice.

      Gubi, Peter; Constantine, Anna (University of Chester, 2019-07)
      Narratives relating to sex and sexuality, expressed explicitly or implicitly, can surface within the therapeutic space. Practitioner training programmes, including the individuals who deliver training, can play a significant role in assisting therapists-in-training to develop competence and reflective self-awareness to enable them to work with these topics. This PhD thesis explores the experiences of, and adequacy of training for, working with the topics of sex and sexuality in counselling and psychotherapy. The aims of this research are to gain insight and understanding into: • The experiences of working with the topics of sex and sexuality from therapists’ and trainers’ perspectives. • The attention given to the topics within counselling and psychotherapy training programmes. • The adequacy of training in this sphere. A hermeneutic phenomenological methodology was employed to conduct the research, informed by the work of van Manen (1990). For Stage I of the study, nine therapists were recruited. The training approaches of the therapist participants included person-centred and integrative modalities. For Stage 2, nine experienced trainers who are currently teaching on a variety of counselling and psychotherapy training programmes, ranging from Diploma to Professional Doctorate were recruited. Individual audio-recorded, semistructured interviews were undertaken and subsequently transcribed. Data were analysed by a thematic approach. The analysis of data for Stage 1 yielded six overarching themes: 1. Sexual taboos. 2. Feeling unprepared. 3. Independent learning. 4. Looking inwards. 5. Beyond training. 6. Sexual diversity. Stage 2 yielded four overarching themes: 1. Personal and professional expressions. 2. Approaches to teaching. 3. Heteronormativity within training. 4. Challenges within training. This research found that the therapists and trainer participants experienced a dissonance in experience in relation to working with sex and sexuality within the training environment. However, there were also similar experiences between the two stages including an agreement of the importance of the topics of sex and sexuality within a therapeutic context. In terms of the efficacy of training in the areas of sex and sexuality, this research found the training to be inadequate. This was particularly clear within Stage 1 of the study and was also evident, to a lesser degree, within Stage 2. The findings reveal that the inadequacy of training may have manifested for a variety of reasons: e.g. the socially constructed taboos around sex and sexuality in the wider socio-cultural environment; an individual’s personal relationship with sex and sexuality and its potential to restrict engagement with the topics, both in training and practice alike. It is important that the counselling and psychotherapy professions take heed of these findings and are proactive in considering better ways to assist therapists-in-training, qualified therapists and psychotherapeutic educators to work with the topics of sex and sexuality in ways that are helpful to the client.