Exploring Clients' Experience of Therapy using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
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Aims: This study aimed to explore clients’ experience of therapy. In particular how preconceptions compared to their therapeutic experience, and how participants made sense of their own experience. Design: In depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants’, who had experienced counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Participants’ were recruited through a local mental health charity, or came forward after hearing about the study through word of mouth. Interviews were then transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Results: Two master themes resulted from the analysis. Theme 1, ‘Conceptualising Therapy’ demonstrated that participants all engaged in sense making surrounding their experience of therapy. Popular conceptualisations included therapy offering a panacea, a coping mechanism, a life line or mutual relationship. Theme 2 ‘Doing Therapy’ illustrated participants took part in therapy in different ways, as result of their conceptualisations. Participants varied to the extent they engaged with the process, how realistic they were, how dependent they were, and how much they were willing to initially trust the therapeutic process. Notably, when expectations failed to comply with participant’s experience it often lead to incongruence between the therapist and client. Conclusion: Therapists need to acknowledge clients’ are active self healers and more deliberately address their expectations within the therapeutic setting in order to comply with expectancies and promote a more helpful, congruent and transparent relationship. Exploring clients’ conceptualisations ads to an existing body of literature investigating clients’ perspectives of the therapeutic process, which ultimately helps to illuminate what clients perceive works for them within therapy and promotes more effective outcomes for clients.