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Respect for the journey: a survivor-led investigation of undergoing psychotherapy assessment

Faulkner, A., Kelly, K., Gibson, S. , Gillard, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9686-2232, Samuels, L. & Sweeney, A. (2021). Respect for the journey: a survivor-led investigation of undergoing psychotherapy assessment. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, doi: 10.1007/s00127-020-02017-1


Psychotherapy assessments are key decision points for both clients and services, carrying considerable weight on both sides. Limited research indicates that assessments have immediate and long-term impacts on clients, particularly where trauma has been experienced, affecting engagement with therapy. Understanding assessments from clients’ perspectives can inform service development and improve client experience.

This is a survivor-led exploration of clients’ experiences of undergoing assessment for talking therapies. Interviews were conducted with seven people who had undergone assessment for psychological therapies in third sector and NHS services. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically.

The core theme was ‘respect for the journey’ reflecting the need expressed by participants for their life experiences prior to the assessment to be given full respect and consideration. Six sub-themes were identified: trauma and desperation, fear of judgement, search for trust and safety, sharing and withholding (a balancing act), feeling deconstructed, and finding hope.

The findings highlight the heightened emotional power surrounding psychotherapy assessments, reflecting the journey participants had undertaken to reach this point. The dilemma facing clients at the heart of an assessment—how much to share and how much to withhold—demonstrates the importance for services and assessors of treating the journey a client has made to the assessment with care and respect. Findings indicate the value of services and practitioners undertaking a trauma-informed approach to assessment encounters.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Psychotherapy assessments, Trauma, Survivor, Client experience, Qualitative, Survivor research
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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