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Research & Counselling

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This assignment will look research, its methods and how it can be used to inform counselling practice

Research is a systematic process of critical enquiry leading to valid propositions & conclusions that are communicated to interested others1 and good research is reproducible. Research is a collective activity – each study drawing on what has gone before. The important aspect of which is, that it is a process that systematically involves a series of steps, and generally grows out of our human tendency to grow, learn and solve, finding things that work. The aim of research is to lead to the development and refinement of new knowledge that is based on concrete experiences or observations, as opposed to purely theoretical conjecture.2

There are two major approaches to research inquiry that of quantitative, dealing with experiments & surveys & qualitative, which is concerned with words rather than numbers involves more narrative, observational or case studies. A mixed method approach can also be used, and is becoming more acceptable 3; where qualitative data such as observations & interviews can be combined with traditional surveys McLeod suggests that each research cycle consists of six stages 4; which incorporate questionfinding; planning; data-gathering; data analysis; writing and dissemination. Each cycle leading a researcher to form more questions to expand their learning. Questions or themes to be investigated through research need to be finely tuned. Each researcher comes with certain assumptions, philosophy and theoretical perspective which need to be challenged and critically assessed. Research is not done in a vacuum, and can be viewed as a complex form of collective learning 5, so it is important to become familiar with other work done on the same subject, and link ones topic to issues, theories and methods already identified as important. A review of literature is an informative way to learn about ones chosen topic, assess gaps in knowledge and help with direction of further study. It can also act as benchmark for comparing and contrasting results. Literature is a broad term that covers published audio and video tapes, as well as written material. There is often a wealth of
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McLeod Doing 4 Cooper Essential 1 3 Creswell Research 15 4 McLeod Doing 23 5 Ibid 10

literature available in academic journals and it is important to develop questioning critique to the material being presented. With questions on how the sample was selected, variables, and interpretation of results, and whether the study is reproducible. McLeod also suggested that there was value in reflecting on what had been omitted from the paper 6. A literature review in of itself can be very productive in informing ones counselling practice, without undertaking the actual research.

All aspects of a research study need to be planned in detail, from general design, sampling and who the research is for. It should also include time and costs. This is where a small pilot may be undertaken, to check the viability and research method. Ethical considerations7 ensure that the public are protected and counselling research comes under research governance framework for Health and Social Care 8 Ensuring confidentiality and informed consent. Once a research plan is finalised it needs the approval of interested parties and ethics committee.

As a researcher will be generalising about a specific population it is important to capture the data in a reproducible format. In data-collection it is important to know the sample size, how it was selected and chosen, for example, whether it was randomised and whether there was a control group. The type of data analysis will depend on the type of approach chosen quantitative methods use a statistical analysis, whereas qualitative methods use text and image analysis. A mixed research method uses both. Whichever method is used it is important to analyse the material accurately and to know its strengths and limitations.

It is important to be able to write up the research, introducing the reader to the new knowledge in context; keeping in mind the readership of your published article and adapting the style of writing or presenting for that audience. Dissemination of the results can assist the profession to move forward and be viewed as a valuable and challenging form of personal and professional development

Research is important for counsellors because our knowledge base is not fixed, and one way the counselling process is informed and improved is by critical questions, encouraging us to
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Ibid 18 Bond Ethical 8 DoH 2005

develop new ideas and approaches, so is part of the process of continuing learning. Counselling is a largely private activity, in conditions of confidentiality, so research can help us learn from and about the work of other therapists. Research also demonstrates the effectiveness of particular counselling interventions and can help in accountability especially for funding.

It is important to know the strength and quality of the evidence before allowing research to inform ones practice. Evidence from meta-analysis of randomised control trials (RCT) has the highest rating, followed by evidence from one RCT. Being category 1 a & b respectively. Category 2 evidence is from a controlled study or quasi experimental study. Category 3 is evidence from non-experimental descriptive studies, for example case-control studies. Category 4 is expert opinion & clinical experience RCT within the counselling realm is very difficult, given the ethical principle of nonmaleficence. One successful way this was achieved was by using waiting list 9 Research can inform by exposing one to new ideas that can enhance the counselling process. Audit and client satisfaction questionnaires can inform and direct improvements to a service

Conclusion Evidenced based practice does impact care in a positive manor; however adhering too rigidly to only using research proven interventions can also limit the choices available to clients. It is difficult to isolate the exact element of the counselling process that has the most therapeutic benefit. All the key figures10 in the development of psychotherapy made important discoveries in their clinical practice and only some of them validated these through systematic research

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Roth What 19 McLeod Doing 186

References: Bond T Ethical guidelines for researching counselling and psychotherapy BACP 2004 Creswell J Research design Sage Publications 2nd edition 2003

Cooper M Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy Sage 2008

Department of Health (DoH) Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digital asset/dh_4122427.pdf 2005 McLeod J Doing Counselling Research Sage 2nd Edition 2003

NICE The guidelines manual 2009 http://www.nice.org.uk/media/5F5/17/The_guidelines_manual_2009__Chapter_5_Identifying_the_evidence.pdf

Roth A & Fonagy P What works for whom? A critical review of psychotherapy research. Guildford Press 2005

References: Bond T Ethical guidelines for researching counselling and psychotherapy BACP 2004 Creswell J Research design Sage Publications 2nd edition 2003 Cooper M Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy Sage 2008 Department of Health (DoH) Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digital asset/dh_4122427.pdf 2005 McLeod J Doing Counselling Research Sage 2nd Edition 2003 NICE The guidelines manual 2009 http://www.nice.org.uk/media/5F5/17/The_guidelines_manual_2009__Chapter_5_Identifying_the_evidence.pdf Roth A & Fonagy P What works for whom? A critical review of psychotherapy research. Guildford Press 2005

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