The therapist in crisis: experiencing the therapeutic process after personal loss

Horwell, Amy (2018) The therapist in crisis: experiencing the therapeutic process after personal loss. Other thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute.


This research project explores the intersubjective world of the ‘therapist in crisis’ in an attempt to understand what it is like to be a psychological therapist following personal loss. Data gathered from nine semi-structured interviews with therapists
who had experienced personal loss were analysed using a relational-centred approach to a heuristic inquiry research method. This incorporated an explicit use of my ‘self-as-researcher’ and careful attendance to the ‘in-between’ of researcher-participant in order to access the experiencing of the phenomenon under investigation.
Three core themes were identified and created from the data. The first concerns the ambiguity in the post-loss therapist’s ability to connect in the therapeutic relationship, highlighting the sense of connection and disconnection that can happen on an intrapsychic and intersubjective level. The second concerns the experience of physical and psychic space in the bereaved therapist’s world and the impact this has on their ability to continue clinical work. The third theme surrounds the meaning of their work to the post-loss therapist and the embodiment of their changing identity as a psychological therapist.
My findings suggest that there is a complex interplay in the dynamic processes involved in the intrapsychic and intersubjective world of the post-loss therapist. What is evident from this research, and is of central importance to this thesis, is the way in which loss inevitably enters the unconscious intersubjective domain of the bereaved therapist. This has important implications for the psychological therapist, for the therapeutic relationship, and for the practise of counselling psychology and psychotherapy.

AHorwell thesis.pdf - Accepted Version

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