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Discursive Subcultures in UK Counselling Psychology: a Profession and its Practitioners’ constructions of Rupture in the Therapeutic Alliance

Jessop, Emma (2017). Discursive Subcultures in UK Counselling Psychology: a Profession and its Practitioners’ constructions of Rupture in the Therapeutic Alliance. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


There is a distinct lack of empirical research pertaining to how UK counselling psychology and its practitioners construct ‘rupture in the therapeutic alliance’, and what the term accomplishes for those that use it. Arguably there is also the potential for discourses of ‘rupture’ to be overlooked within a profession whose regulating and training discourses prioritise the healthy alliance as normative and desirable.

Informed by a critical realist constructionist epistemology, this study explores how the profession and individual counselling psychologists construct ‘rupture in the therapeutic alliance’. This exploration is in two parts: (i) a mapping of the contemporary discursive terrain of ‘rupture in the alliance’ through an analysis of the discipline’s expert texts and (ii) an exploration of practitioners’ constructions of ‘rupture’ via analysis of four qualified counselling psychologists’ semi-structured interviews and a focus group with five trainees. These two sites of analysis permit an exploration of the wider discursive resources available to counselling psychologists and an investigation of how participants’ choice (or resistance) of particular discourses and discursive repertoires impact their subjectivities and practices. To explore this interface a synthesis of Foucauldian, discursive and critical discursive analytic approaches was used.

Analysis of expert texts indicates a binaried, discursive terrain which draws on medical and relational discourses to position participants as either ‘diagnostician’ or (ideal) ‘relational being’ in relation to ‘rupture in the therapeutic alliance’. In their talk, individuals evade such fixed positions by drawing on alternative discursive repertoires of rupture as ‘inter’ and’ intrapersonal crisis’. These allow practitioners to take up alternative positions (e.g. practitioner as ‘emotional being’, ‘dutiful soldier’) from which to manage issues of accountability in relation to ‘rupture’ within the clinical space. This can lead to fractured professional subjectivities. Interestingly rupture constructed as ‘ending’ belongs to a marginalised discourse within both textual and individual accounts. The consequences of this marginalisation, along with the implications of practitioners’ fractured subjectivities for the profession and practice of counselling psychology are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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