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Research and Practice: Right and Wrong – A Joint Conference for Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Arts Therapies

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Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music Therapy | First View
© Approaches 1 ISSN: 1791-9622
Conference report
Research and Practice: Right and Wrong
A Joint Conference for Counselling,
Psychotherapy and the Arts Therapies
Beth Pickard
Research and Practice: Right and Wrong A Joint Conference
for Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Arts Therapies
University of South Wales Centre for Counselling and
Psychotherapy Research
Beth Pickard is a Senior Music Lecturer at the University of South Wales, and is graduating this summer
from the MA Music Therapy at the University of the West of England, where she received the McMullen
Disability Prize for her work on self-identity, neuro-rehabilitation and music therapy. Beth completed her
undergraduate studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where she received the Principal’s
Award for her research into Music and Down’s Syndrome. Whilst working in education with a focus on
additional learning needs and disability, Beth completed an MSc in Applied Psychology of Intellectual
Disabilities with the University of Portsmouth. Beth is a trustee of the Birmingham-based charity ‘Melody’
which promotes instrumental tuition and musical opportunities for children and young people who have
learning disabilities.
Email: beth.pickard@southwales.ac.uk
INTRODUCTION
This report provides a summary of the 8th annual
conference of the University of South Wales (USW)
Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Research, held at USW Caerleon Campus on
Saturday 27th June 2015. Primarily aimed at
counsellors, psychotherapists and arts therapists
interested in exploring and developing their practice
potential, delegates were presented with the latest
in research papers as well as a choice of
workshops. The conference was well-attended with
65 delegates comprising students, graduates, and
a lively mix of academics and practitioners; with
representatives from CAMHS, CMHT and Learning
Disabilities NHS teams in England and Wales, in
addition to representatives from further education,
the major Third Sector providers and large and
small private practices. Delegates came from
across South Wales, the borders and South West,
and even from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.
CONFERENCE PROGRAMME
Dr Peter Mayer, Head of the School of Psychology,
Early Years and Therapeutic Studies at the
University of South Wales, declared the conference
open; presenting the notion of how important the
sharing and embedding of research and practice is
between academics and students, as well as the
bright future of counselling and psychotherapy at
USW with the imminent move to a purpose-built
Therapeutic Studies department at USW Newport
City Campus. The regional impact of the Newport
Community Counselling Service was also
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referenced as an important context for this annual
event.
There were two keynote presentations during
the day, the first by Professor Colin Feltham PhD,
FBACP, who is Emeritus Professor of Critical
Counselling Studies at Sheffield Hallam University
and External Associate Professor of Humanistic
Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark.
Professor Feltham’s thought-provoking
presentation, entitled ‘Is Our Research on the
Wrong Path? Some Critical Thoughts’ invited
delegates to recognise the usefully constructive
nature of criticality and to challenge certain
assumptions and dominant research paradigms. A
detailed and theoretically underpinned overview of
psychotherapy research was provided, encouraging
delegates to consider the common factors between
modalities. Current challenges in researching
practice in the fields of counselling, psychotherapy
and the arts therapies were discussed, as well as
some of the constraints of researching within a
Higher Education context. The notions of
uncomfortable or inconvenient findings and difficult
research questions were considered; these were
explored in more detail in a subsequent workshop
later in the day.
Feltham concluded by summarising that the
concept of critical thinking is under-developed and
neglected both in training and in practice,
questioning whether the divorce between
practitioners and theorists can continue.
Imaginative approaches to conducting research
were encouraged, as well as recognising “what we
can do well.
Photo 1: Professor Colin Feltham’s keynote
presentation
Following this inspiring keynote presentation,
delegates could transition to one of two academic
paper presentations. The first, ‘Are we Rationalists
or Tragedians: Redefining Therapy as an Aesthetic
Act’ presented by Nicola Blunden of USW and
Markku Nivalainen of the University of Jyväskylä,
Finland; considered the apparent contradictions
presented by the rational discourse of the mind and
the poetic cries of the heart and the impact of this
dichotomy on evidencing practice. This entertaining
and thought-provoking presentation used Greek
tragedy to explore the pain that reason may have
suppressed, proposing tentative suggestions for
how we might return the poets to the therapeutic
polis, and use an aesthetic model to evidence
practice.
The second academic paper entitled
‘Insider/Outsider: Considerations Regarding Data
Reliability in the Evaluation of Project Beit Sahour,
A West Bank Therapeutic Music Project’ was
presented by music therapist and USW MA Music
Therapy course leader, Liz Coombes, on her work
with USW occupational psychologist Michal Tombs
(Coombes & Tombs-Katz 2015). This collaborative
paper provided an evaluation of the therapeutic
music project that took place in the West Bank in
two mainstream schools, with particular emphasis
on trainee motivation, training programme quality
and subsequent use and embedding of knowledge
and skills; exploring theories such as Motivation to
Learn (Noe & Schmitt 1986; Colquitt, LePine & Noe
2000), Instrumentality (Tharenou 2001) and Social
Exchange Theory (McDonell et al. 2006).
Photo 2: Liz Coombes presents Project Beit Sahour
The “insider/outsider” position of the trainer as
researcher was also considered: its impact upon
the validity of the results and also its contribution to
the authenticity of responses. Linguistic differences
were also noted to have a possible impact upon
responses and results, and the potential of
interviews to address some of these issues in
future research. This innovative approach to
sharing therapeutic music practice with
communities in areas of conflict was also an
opportunity to reflect upon researching practice and
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ensuring the rigour and validity of the design of
such research.
Following these academic paper presentations
were two workshops for delegates to choose to
attend. The first, ‘Drifting in Each Other’s Thoughts:
A Cross-Modality Workshop Exploring How
Different Approaches Synthesize in Practice with a
Particular Focus on Therapist Drift, the Use of
Story, Counsellor Agency, and Patient Diagnosis’
by Jack Rochon, Elaine Davies, Julie Dorey and
Catherine Jones was a collaborative, multi-
disciplinary exploration of diverse practice
approaches in search of synthesis.
The workshop represented the collective
biographies of the Cardiff Psychotherapeutic
Research and Practice Study Group synthesised
into four emblematic but simple therapeutic
elements, considering potentially transferable and
effective ways of working between what are often
considered to be incompatible ways of working.
Embedded within a framework of social
constructionist, constructivist, post-structuralist and
structuralist cultures, the activities were designed to
encourage a critical stance toward taken-for-
granted ways of understanding one another’s
practice. Delegates were invited to consider their
therapeutic sessions as art installations, cultural
artefacts: multisensory and multidimensional. This
highly innovative and collaborative session
provided much challenging food for thought for
delegates of all disciplines and modalities.
Photo 3: Cath Jones, Elaine Davies and Jack Rochon
present their cross-modality workshop
The second workshop, presented by Penny Hallas
and Lydia Cleaves, was entitled ‘Virtual Meeting
Place: New Technologies and Approaches in Art
Therapy and Dramatherapy’. This workshop
explored the way gesture-based technology
provides a framework to hold and contain emotion
as well as facilitating expression and insight into
self and relationships.
Following a networking lunch break where
delegates were able to browse and purchase texts
from local publishers PCCS Books, the second
keynote presentation opened the afternoon’s
proceedings. USW welcomed eminent art
psychotherapist and group analyst, Professor
Diane Waller, who is Emeritus Professor of Art
Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, University of
London; Honorary Professor in the Centre for
Mental Health, Imperial College; chair of the
International Centre for Research in the Arts
Therapies; and Principal Research Fellow, School
of Applied Social Science, Brighton. Waller’s
presentation focused on the theme: ‘Practitioners
Becoming Researchers: Some Dilemmas’,
describing research as a “creative process”.
External influences on research were considered
as well as the place of the arts therapies within
such structures, and the inherent values of
research.
Photo 4: Prof Diane Waller’s keynote presentation
Waller insightfully shared the learning from her own
research projects, reflecting on often unexpected
outcomes which posed further questions or
challenges; concluding by noting that as long as
research is ethically sound, “there is no ‘wrong
research”. She noted that we should not be afraid
of embarking upon research as practitioners,
valuing our own skills and collaborating with
specialists to ensure the rigour of research
methods.
The next session provided an opportunity for
delegates to attend one of three sessions where
academic papers were presented. The first was led
by Cate Harding-Jones, presenting and discussing
the research question: Sex Trafficking and
Counselling: Are the Needs of Trafficked People in
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Wales Being Met?’ Concurrently, Kirsty Bilski
presented ‘Chasing and Befriending Transference
in Sand Tray Supervision’, considering how existing
supervision models and theory integrate to
underpin the use of Sand Tray in counselling
supervision, and what the potential benefits of its
use may be. The third academic paper presentation
during this session was ‘When Love is Not Enough:
Music Therapy with Adoptions in Crisis, An
Evaluation of Findings Arising From Clinical Cases
and Discussed in Light of Contemporary
Attachment Thinking From the Fields of
Neurobiology and Relational Psychotherapy’,
presented by music therapist, Joy Gravestock. A
creative and thoughtful context was provided for the
presentation framed by the story of The Velveteen
Rabbit (Williams 1922):
“It doesn’t happen all at once”, said the skin
horse, “You become. It takes a long time
(Williams 1922, cited in Gravestock 2015).
Gravestock considered research to be the practice
of “sharing stories about our work”, first and
foremost as a clinician focused on the clinical work;
not an expert, but a practitioner on a continuing
journey. A quotation from music therapist
Jacqueline Robarts supported this practice-based
approach to research: “Clinical work is the most
trustworthy route to theoretical understanding”
(Robarts 2014). Clinical work was presented and its
theoretical orientation discussed, with reference to
intersubjective theory (Stern 2010); developmental
neuroscience and neuropsychology (Gallese &
Ammaniti 2014), relational psychotherapy (Schore
1994), modern attachment theory and trauma
related theory (Wilkinson 2006, 2010).
Photo 5: Joy Gravestock presenting about music
therapy in adoption
Extracts of clinical work with adoptive families
illustrated the theoretical constructs presented and
brought to life the presentation with examples of
communicative musicality (Malloch & Trevarthen
2010) and affect attunement (Stern 2010) shared
and reflected upon. Ethical considerations were
presented in specific relation to completing clinical
work and research with this individualised client
group.
The final session was a mixture of academic
paper presentations and workshop options for
delegates to attend. Rachel Waters presented
‘Carers’ Beliefs About Counselling: Expectations
and Understanding’ which aimed to explore
whether and how carers thought that counselling
might help with difficulties associated with the
caring role through a community-based
participatory approach to research. Hayley Bartlett
presented ‘The Relationship Between Predictor
Variables and Counselling Outcomes in a
University-Based Community Counselling Service’,
again focusing and exploring the provision of the
Newport Community Counselling Service to
determine ‘how’ and ‘for whom’ therapy works. This
study demonstrated the effectiveness of
community-based counselling with trainee
therapists and adds to the literature by elucidating
issues surrounding the effects of four predictor
variables on counselling outcomes.
As part of the ‘Art Psychotherapy and
Counselling Masters Forum’, four academic papers
were presented and considered for the PCCS
Books sponsored Masters Prizes:
Student
Jodie Cooper
Rhiannon Gray
Imogen Harries
Amy Wilson
Table 1: Art psychotherapy and counselling Masters
student presentations
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The final workshop session was facilitated by
Professor Colin Feltham, entitled ‘Radical Honesty
and Critico-Creative Thinking as Research Stimuli’,
based on the challenge that “much research in our
field is pedestrian, convenience-driven and open to
improvement”. Using Brad Blanton’s practice of
‘radical honesty’ (Blanton 2005) combined with free
associative brainstorming, delegates were
encouraged to identify topics and methods for
research that have been accidentally neglected or
passed over out of difficulty or sensitivity.
Suspension of conventional thinking and “openness
to radical new ideas in research” was encouraged.
SUMMARY
The plenary session was an opportunity to
celebrate the diversity and creativity of the sessions
presented and facilitated throughout the day, with
comments and questions from delegates to
presenters and organisers. Dr Sheila Spong, Head
of Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University
of South Wales, expressed her gratitude to Jack
Rochon, Blanka Hubena and Helen Jury from USW
for arranging and hosting the event so efficiently;
and also thanked the USW School of Psychology,
Early Years and Therapeutic Studies for funding
three student places at the conference. The PCCS
Books Award for Masters Level Research was
presented to Imogen Harris, and the PCCS Books
Art Psychotherapy Prize was awarded to Jodie Lee
Cooper.
Photo 6: Imogen Williams is awarded the PCCS
Books prize for MA dissertation in counselling and
psychotherapy subject area
Photo 7: Jodie Lee Cooper is awarded the MA Art
Psychotherapy prize from PCCS Books
It was summarised that the sharing of practice and
approaches between modalities had been
informative and inspiring, and that the notion of
collaborative research was positive, possible and
exciting.
The USW Therapeutic Studies team are excited
to welcome colleagues from Play Therapy and
Systemic Family Therapy to join the research
conference next year, which will be held on
Saturday 2nd July 2016 at the University of South
Wales.
Photo 8: Dr Sheila Spong thanks the USW team who
coordinated the conference
REFERENCES
Blanton, B. (2005). Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your
Life By Telling the Truth. Virginia: Sparrowhawk
Publications.
Colquitt, J. A., LePine, J. A., & Noe, R. A. (2000). Towards an
integrative theory of training and motivation: A meta-analytic
path analysis of 20 years of research. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 85(5), 678-707.
Coombes. E., & Tombs-Katz, M. (2015). Interactive therapeutic
music skill-sharing in the West Bank: An evaluation report of
project Beit Sahour. Approaches: Music Therapy & Special
Music Education, First View (Advance online publication), 1-
13.
Gallese, M., & Ammaniti, V. (2014). The Birth of Intersubjectivity:
Psychodynamics, Neurobiology and the Self. London:
Norton.
Gravestock, J. (2015). When love is not enough: Music therapy
with adoptions in crisis, an evaluation of findings arising from
clinical cases and discussed in light of contemporary
attachment thinking from the fields of neurobiology and
relational psychotherapy. Paper presented at the ‘Research
and Practice: Right and Wrong A Joint Conference for
Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Arts Therapies’
Conference Presentation, Newport, 27th June 2015.
Malloch, S., & Trevarthen, C. (Eds.). (2010). Communicative
Musicality: Exploring the Basis of Human Companionship.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McDonell, J., Strom-Gottfried, K. J., Burton, D. L., & Yaffe, J.
(2006). Behaviourism, Social Learning and Exchange
Theory. In S. P. Robbins, P. Chatterjee & E. R. Canda
(Eds.), Contemporary Human Behavior Theory: A Critical
Perspective for Social Work (pp. 349-385), Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.
Noe, R. A., & Schmitt, N. (1986). The influence of trainee
attitudes on training effectiveness: Test of a model.
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Personnel Psychology, 39, 497-523.
Robarts, J. Z. (2014). Music Therapy and Children with
Developmental Trauma Disorder. In C. A. Malchiodi & D. A.
Crenshaw (Eds.), Creative Arts and Play Therapy for
Attachment Problems (pp. 67-83). New York: The Guilford
Press.
Schore, A. N. (1994). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the
Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Mahwah,
NJ: Erlbaum.
Stern, D. (2010). Forms of Vitality: Exploring Dynamic
Experience in Psychology, the Arts, Psychotherapy and
Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tharenou, P. (2001). The relationship of training motivation to
participation in training and development. Journal of
Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74, 599-621.
Wilkinson, M. (2006). Coming Into Mind, the Mind-Brain
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Wilkinson, M. (2010). Changing Minds in Therapy: Emotion,
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York: Norton.
Williams, M. (1922). The Velveteen Rabbit. New York City:
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Suggested citation:
Pickard, B. (2015). Conference report: Research and
Practice: Right and Wrong A Joint Conference for
Counselling, Psychotherapy and the Arts Therapies.
Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music
Therapy, First View (Advance online publication), 1-6.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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