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To tell my story: an exploration of narrative, emotion and narrative identity processes in counselling psychology treatment sessions

Ormrod, J. S. (2019). To tell my story: an exploration of narrative, emotion and narrative identity processes in counselling psychology treatment sessions. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Talking therapies are narratively structured. A person experiencing some kind of distress tells a therapist stories about their past, present and possible futures. The therapist listens, observes and responds, and as they do so, they assist in making sense of the stories told in relation to their own narratives; for instance, a meta-narrative such as attachment theory, previous clinical encounters and their own life experiences. However, the processes involved in narrativisation in therapy have not been subject to as much research as might reasonably be expected for such an integral aspect of the encounter. In an attempt to inform counselling psychology practice and research, this piece of work focused on analysing narratives in therapy sessions to explore how stories told are internal, subjective, authentic expressions of how a client grasps their world; yet equally, how there might be external conditions that limit what the client can access of this world. A secondary focus was to explore how these evolving therapy narratives might relate to the constructs of agency and change. A blended form of narrative analysis, observing meaning-making, emotion, narrative identity and dialogical processes, was applied to the recordings of three consecutive sessions shared by three therapist-client dyads, each at different stages in therapy. The result offers a multi-layered understanding of how internal and external elements affect the meaning-making processes central to the practice of counselling psychology and psychotherapy. Suggestions are made in relation to therapeutic work, regarding the need for a greater awareness of these processes in clients, and of the implications of the meta-narratives of therapy itself.

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