Let’s talk about politics: Therapists’ accounts of the relationship between p/Politics and therapy

University of Roehampton, Zoom

13:00 - 14:00

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There has been an emphasis on ‘social justice’ across applied psychology, counselling and psychotherapy, with calls for action and associated practice, research and scholarship increasing over the past two decades internationally. Nevertheless, despite hints at the political nature of ‘social justice’, limited prior research has considered the connection between politics and therapy from the point of view of therapists.

This talk will firstly consider what we mean by ‘politics’, before giving an overview of recent qualitative research which aimed to explore therapists' understandings and experiences of politics in their work. Generated themes include (1) Swimming against the tide: working against p/Politics in therapy; (2) Therapeutic work as p/Political; (3) ‘We have to park our impressions of politics at the door’; (4) Professional ethics and p/Politics: striking a balance; and (5) ‘A culture of silence’: lack of training and support. Overall, analysis suggests that participants viewed politics as both something inherent to therapy and something external that exerts an influence on the work they do. Attending to the p/Political and the ethical in therapy can be challenging. Some practitioners experience engaging with politics in therapy as a lonely and unsupported process, which they were not adequately prepared for in their training. After presenting the analysis from this research, I reflect on future directions in relation to p/Politics and therapy, and argue that we need to become as comfortable talking about politics as we are with talking about social justice.

Dr Laura Anne Winter, CPsychol, is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Counselling Psychology, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a HCPC Registered Practitioner Psychologist (Counselling) based at the University of Manchester. She co-edited the fourth Edition of The SAGE Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy with Professor Colin Feltham and Dr Terry Hanley (Sage, 2017).

Her research interests include social justice, and in particular the impact of economic and relational inequality on wellbeing and education. Previous research has included exploring social justice within educational and counselling psychology, the impact of welfare reform on families and schools (specifically the ‘bedroom tax’), and the impact of ‘austerity’ on the way secondary schools are supporting pupil emotional wellbeing. Most recently, she has been involved in working which consider the relationship between therapy and politics.