I never intended to do a doctorate!

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https://doi.org/10.52456/WACJO112

Introduction

In this article, my personal journey of transformation through the pursuance of research and study as an adult is outlined. The golden theme throughout being the immense growth and development that I have experienced as a result. Now in my mid-sixties, I am probably the most surprised person in the world to find myself in the fourth year of a doctoral programme and in the process of writing my thesis, having carried out qualitative research entitled ‘A narrative exploration of the influence of a fundamentalist religious upbringing on mental health and wellbeing in adulthood’. It has been an enormous privilege to work on this project with the volunteer co-researchers (this is the term used for participants in this study), namely qualified counsellors, from across the Abrahamic faiths, who have generously given of their time and energy as we have shared stories relating to the research topic. During this process I have frequently reflected on the long journey I have undertaken: from the 15-year-old girl who left school without any qualifications to the present day.

Becoming a researcher

It seems important to acknowledge at this point that I never set out to be a researcher and, for most of my life, it has been as far away from my thinking as the moon is to earth. Yet for many years, I have been aware of a thirst for knowledge, the result of which has been that I have spent a lot of my adult life in learning environments. My first encounter with research was on my first undergraduate degree many years ago. I am unable to recall much detail, in terms of subject or process, except that I was left with the firm belief that research equalled statistics and was therefore not for me. There is no doubt that, at that time, any interest in research was killed off, and for many years, the quarterly Counselling and Psychotherapy research journal of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy was promptly thrown in the bin on arrival! Nonetheless, despite this personal rejection of research, I ran a thriving private practice, and successfully worked with clients and supervisees for many years, eventually becoming an accredited member of Association of Christian Counsellors and senior member accredited with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. In addition, I have been a tutor for three different training organisations and, until a couple of years ago, delivered counselling-related training workshops at a local college of further education. My passion for learning has facilitated engagement in personal therapy, supervision, workshop attendance, reading and participation in many courses and workshops over the years, all of which have contributed to immense personal and professional development.

Personal and professional development

Undoubtedly, the term ‘personal and professional development’ is commonly used and has become a big industry within the counselling and psychotherapy profession. This is not surprising, given the requirements of the professional bodies for practitioners to engage with the continuing professional throughout their careers, with frequent acknowledgement of its contribution to ethical practice. Moreover, ongoing development is regularly acknowledged as a foundational building block, not only for counsellors in practice, but also for student counsellors not yet seeing clients. As current leader of the personal and professional development module on the BA (Hons) Counselling programme at Waverley Abbey College, I seek to convey the crucial nature of ongoing development to clinical practice through my lectures to year one trainees. Certainly, ongoing development is vital to my work as a therapeutic counsellor, supervisor, researcher, and trainer, whether it is in relation to looking into a specific presenting issue or undertaking more formal training. Yet, it seems completely astonishing that despite universal acknowledgement of the importance of continuing growth and learning to clinical practice, and that a wide variety of activities exist, there is no current agreed definition (McLeod & McLeod, 2014:9). Despite this, the emphasis of its crucial nature is not diminished by many psychotherapeutic professionals. As a supervisor, I regularly urge supervisees to not simply engage with the continuing professional development requirements as a tick-box exercise to meet the annual obligations, but rather to view this as an opportunity to fully participate with curiosity and enthusiasm, as personal and professional growth intertwine. Undeniably, the assertion that we have a responsibility to ‘know ourselves as much as we hope to know others’ (Adams, 2014:17) grounds counsellors and psychotherapists in the sobering reality of their duty of care to clients, with personal training and growth surely being a mandatory part of this. Further, while some writers exhort practitioners to reflexively engage in their own growth, so that they can become more complete people (Wilkins, 1997:1), others stress the importance of considering ‘the engine that drives us’ (Bager-Charleson, 2012:5). In other words, the necessity for thinking about our motivation for engaging in this work is vital. Moreover, many practitioners willingly participate in workshops, courses, personal therapy, spiritual direction, supervision, further academic training, and read books, research articles and blogs. These activities, combined with rewarding work with clients, supervisees and students, have provided me with a profound sense of purpose and meaning, so it is not surprising that, for a long time, I held a strong belief that this rewarding professional life would take me happily into eventual retirement.

Studying for a masters’ degree

However, this changed dramatically one day in 2013. I was idly browsing through a brochure of counselling degree programmes run by Waverley Abbey College when an advertisement for the Masters’ of Arts in Relational Counselling and Psychotherapy degree (now the Master of Arts in Therapeutic Counselling and Psychotherapy) leapt out of the page at me, and I became convinced in those moments that I needed to explore the possibility of applying for the course. So I ‘pushed the door’ gently only to find that it flew open, and I subsequently embarked on three years of masters’ level training without any real idea of what it involved, or that a research project and resultant dissertation were required in partial fulfilment of the qualification. I now realise that those three years were a time of profound personal and professional growth, especially on the topic of integrating a spirituality into practice – a key reason for my interest in the first place. Most notably though, I was catapulted into the discovery of qualitative research for the first time, which was life-changing, even though the carrying out of five semi-structured interviews, the transcribing of the conversations and the analysis process of immersion in the data, and then extracting super-ordinate and sub-ordinate themes as appropriate to the methodological double hermeneutic of the interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith et al, 2009) were onerous. Similarly, the writing of my dissertation entitled ‘An exploration of counsellors’ lived experiences of the impact of client spirituality when bereavement is the presenting issue’ was both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Yet, my interest in research was ignited as never before, with the foundational philosophical underpinnings of the qualitative nature of the research project authentically paralleling the theoretical and philosophical orientation of my work with clients. However, at the point of submission, I vowed to myself that I would never subject myself to the demands of such rigorous work again.

The doctoral journey

In fact, the irony is that, despite the promise I made to myself that evening in the relief of completion, a few short weeks later I started to mindlessly google doctorate in psychotherapy (D. Psych.) and doctor of philosophy (PhD) opportunities within the United Kingdom, and once again, the ‘door flew wide open’ and within a short time I became a doctoral candidate at the Metanoia Institute/Middlesex University. Thankfully, I was aware that time that central to the achievement of a doctoral degree was a robust research project, even though I was unsure of the research topic at that time – apart from something to do with trauma and spirituality.

Why this doctoral programme?

There are at least five types of doctoral degrees awarded in the UK (Smith, 2009). However, the one that I am currently on was attractive because of its crucial work-based nature aimed at mid-career counsellors and psychotherapists. In fact, a core aim of the programme is to enable professional practitioners to continuously evaluate their own practice while holding awareness of assumptions and being mindful of research developments within counselling and psychotherapy (Du Plock & Barber, 2016) – an obvious opportunity for growth and development. Also appealing were the programme’s aims, described as being ‘about continuing professional development into continuous development of their profession’ (Goss & Stevens, 2016:19). For me, the emphasis on the important role that counselling and psychotherapy research has in informing practice at the micro-interactions with individual clients and supervisees at the macro-level of the profession was attractive given the research-practitioner gap.

The development of the research topic

Without doubt I am an insider-researcher into the influence of a fundamentalist religious upbringing on mental health and wellbeing; my own familial environment in my formative years was deeply embedded within fundamentalist religion. In fact, the conceptual roots of this study are situated in Wales back in the mid-1950s where I was born: second of three children into a working class, nuclear Welsh family, multi-generationally situated within chapel religiosity dating back to the Welsh revival (1905–1906). My early years are recalled as happy and secure as my life was safely based in the community of a small Welsh town where everybody knew everyone and cared for each other like family. This socio-cultural heritage remained intact until my mother was ‘love-bombed’ (Singer, 2003:114) and radically converted to a fundamentalist, evangelical, high-demand, cult-like group when I was just three years old. Naturally, I have no memory of that momentous parental decision, which dramatically altered my developmental experiences, as over time the form of familial Christianity became based on very ‘all or nothing’, literal and dogmatic rules, which permeated every aspect of life. Suffice it to say that I have come to understand that during those growing-up years I lived in constant hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilantly attuned to others with adrenaline constantly flooding my system, thus illustrating that ‘even if children are at home with their biological parents, they may still be poorly regulated’ (Gerhardt, 2004:75). During the many years since childhood, I have often wondered about the effects of this sort of upbringing on the mental health and wellbeing of us three children, later in life.

However, in addition to my own reflections on these matters, it was therapeutic work with one client [1] during the first year of the doctoral work that enabled significant development in the refinement of my research topic.

While the client identified relational problems as his presenting issue, it became apparent that there was more to his story than he was seemingly aware of. During the assessment appointment, I enquired about his family of origin, and he replied that his mother was ‘passionately Christian’ while his father was ‘very judgmental and an authoritative narcissist’. Over the weeks, the client revealed more about the family dynamics during his formative years, home was ‘a fortress’ because, although they were an extremely religious Christian family, they did not attend church or Sunday school at all, but instead they operated ‘like a cult’ with his patriarchal father being ‘the highest authority’. In alignment with my core theoretical modality, a person-centred way of working seemed most appropriate, and the client responded positively to the non-judgmental environment, the empathy, unconditional positive regard and genuineness, and started to put some ‘loving distance’ (Lagone, 2016 cited in Aguado, 2018:4) in place within previously enmeshed family relationships. In fact, when ending counselling, the client’s feedback was that he felt that he had grown greatly through our work together and yet, with the benefit of hindsight and subsequent learning, I now wonder whether I was working with his pseudo-personality (Jenkinson, 2008). I wish I had known then that a dysfunctional family can operate like a cult (Aguado, 2018) and that the client might have benefitted from specialist help rather than traditional psychotherapy. However, the recognition was that the client’s background was like mine, and this was pivotal to the refinement of the topic because the importance of therapists recognising the potential influence of a fundamentalist, religious upbringing on mental health and wellbeing became clear. Certainly, prior to our work, the client was unaware that his adulthood relationships were being detrimentally impacted by the relational religious dynamics of his growing-up years. Alongside, I became aware that other people had also experienced the devastation of therapists failing to recognise the significance of such a childhood.

Furthermore, the portfolio of work produced in partial fulfilment of the doctoral requirements was also significantly influential to the fine-tuning of the topic as documents such as a review of personal and professional development, a reflexive research journal, a critique of my masters’ research, a learning agreement (research proposal) and a written summary of the knowledge gained from attendance at professional knowledge seminars have been written. A significant ‘growing edge’ during this time has been to embrace openness and creativity in my work, which is unsurprisingly counter-intuitive to me, given the rule-based nature of my upbringing.

Philosophical positioning

In contrast to the masters’ research experience where all elements of the design were prescribed, at doctoral level the ‘mapping of the territory’ (Finlay & Evans, 2009:14) has involved greater choice. However, alongside the options for choices around the methodology and methods has come responsibility to be clear about my philosophical positioning, about ‘what can be known (ontology) and how it can be known (epistemology)’ (Etherington, 2016:87). Crucially, the importance of the influence of a researcher’s beliefs and values on the research itself is emphasized by Penny (2021) who has utilised the visual image of Bond’s Pond (1995, cited in Palmer & Woolfe, 2000:319) by effectively applying the model to the inter-related layers of the research process. Such graphic illustrations have helped me to understand that my current philosophical position has considerably evolved from the absolutist, positivist influences of a fundamentalist religious childhood, which had an intrinsic conviction that we had ‘the truth’ and were the only ones who possessed it. Indeed, my present perspective is that there are striking parallels between the indoctrination characteristics of positivism in my growing-up years and the ontological and epistemological positions of positive quantitative researchers who ‘aim for truths’ (Finlay & Evans, 2009:19). Moreover, positivism can be critiqued for over-simplifying the intricacies of human experience, while failing to consider the subjective nature of independent human experiences (Langdridge, 2004).

Consequently, my philosophical stance is firmly located within an anti-positivist, constructivist-interpretivist, and relativist ontological position, and this informs my work as a practitioner and researcher (Penny, 2021), being based on the conviction that there is not one truth that can be discovered by hypotheses testing, as human beings are ‘not passive phenomena waiting to be measured’ (Langdridge, 2004:252). Rather, there are a variety of understandings in existence with experiences being formed and processed through words, and a diversity of applied interpretations (Finlay & Evans, 2009) as indicated in my relativist ontological position combined with a constructivist stance. This perspective additionally enables me to hold the belief that ‘perception and cognition are active processes in which anything ‘given’ is actually a product of processes, of selection and construction’ (Hammersley, 2013:35). Without doubt, my firm belief is that this position also blends well with an interpretivist position, which emphasizes the essential nature of ‘draw[ing] upon our human capacity to understand fellow human beings ‘from the inside’ – through empathy, shared experience and culture etc.’ (Hammersley, 2013:26). Additionally, the social constructionist perspective is integrated into my philosophical position because it recognises that ‘people’s perceptions and experiences are socially, culturally, historically, and linguistically produced’ (Finlay & Evans, 2009), which is a crucial consideration given the focus of my research study. This stance allows me to be authentically true to my personal beliefs, values and theoretical orientation as an integrative practitioner with a person-centred core, prioritizing as it does, the centrality of relational connection and the intrinsic value of a person’s truth around their phenomenological, lived experiences, whether in the therapeutic space or the research environment.

Not surprisingly, these carefully thought through personal beliefs and values have naturally led to qualitative methodologies where the focus is on language and the ‘deep’ (Bottery & Wright, 2019:113) investigation of the subjective experience of the phenomenon in question rather than the adoption of the ‘Newtonian spirit’ (Finlay & Evans, 2009:20) and realist ontological perspective of the ‘broad’ (Bottery & Wright, 2019:113) quantitative testing of hypotheses, with numbers and statistics being used in a deductive process of data extraction. While the alternatives of action research or a mixed methods approach do exist of course, qualitative studies interest me because they ‘engage with exploring, describing, and interpreting the personal and social experiences of participants’ (Smith, 2015:21). They also seek to understand the richness and complexity of subjective experience (Bright, 2013) and the ways in which people make meaning in their lives (McLeod, 2015:92). In short, qualitative methodologies involve observing, describing and interpreting the way that people experience, act on, or think about themselves, their experiences and the world (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013). Yet despite the influential emergence of qualitative research across many areas of the social sciences, such methodologies are harshly critiqued by those entrenched in a quantitative mindset for being a random collection of different approaches, all based on differing ontological and epistemological positions (Hammersley, 2013:ix). Consequently, the argument is that there is little to unite qualitative researchers apart from resistance to quantitative ideology. However, the same accusations could also be made towards quantitative investigators who frequently debate the status of randomized control trials versus surveys or questionnaires, for example. Moreover, qualitative inquiry mainly concerns itself with seeing through the eyes of research contributors, description of context as important, flexibility, lack of structure and concepts and theory (Bryman, 2008). There can therefore be little doubt that a qualitative approach is most suited for exploring the research questions posited for this study being, ‘might a fundamentalist religious upbringing be an influential factor on mental health and wellbeing in adulthood? What are counsellors’ experiences?’. Nonetheless, it was essential to consider a variety of qualitative methodologies before the eventual decision to use narrative inquiry was made.

Narrative inquiry

One of the key strengths of narrative inquiry is that it is founded on the centrality of narrative to our human experience, given that storytelling is fundamentally important in life (Atkinson, 1998). This enables meaning to be gained from human experiences (Polkinghorne, 1988) through the provision of symmetry, ‘to our very sense of selfhood… [as] we creative a narrative identity’ (Smith, 2015:89; Smith & Sparkes, 2008), as narrative inhabits both our internal and external dialogues. Moreover, it is also suited to the exploration of extended narratives within socio-cultural contexts, such as growing up within fundamentalist religious environments, being underpinned by constructivist and constructionist epistemologies. Furthermore, storytelling is culturally universal (McAdams, 1993) and historically traditional, with the passing of tales from one generation to another being commonplace. It is also viewed as being both accessible and pleasurable, as it bridges both theory and practice, as well as offering diversely exciting approaches to research inquiry (Squire et al, 2014:94).

Conversely, critiques of narrative inquiry as a methodology include accusations that its origins are complicated (Squire et al, 2014); that it is simply an umbrella term for a conglomeration of methods (Langdridge, 2004; Mischler, 1986; Squire et al, 2014); and for its relatively new emergence into interdisciplinary practice in the last decade or so. This methodology is also criticised for lacking structure and instructions on how to carry it out (Squire et al, 2014). Additionally, some maintain that it is too restrictive because it focuses on just the narrative (Smith et al, 2009), but it is also accused of being too broad in relation to meaning making, given that one of the functions of narrative is to demonstrate someone’s way of organising events and experiences about self and others (Polkington, 1988). Much of the criticism, however, steadfastly ignores the healing effects and reorganisation of memories, which can result from the ‘narrative stream’ (Rosenthal, 2003:923) of storytelling, and the fact that other literature soundly backs-up ‘life-story research’ (Etherington, 2009:225) as a suitable approach for counselling and psychotherapy research, which ameliorates much of the disapproval. Further, much of the criticism of narrative inquiry is made of it as a whole methodology rather than one version, and it is therefore likely that the careful choice of one specific form of it could potentially counter much of the condemnation. On this basis, the decision was made that the reflexive (Etherington, 2004), collaborative approach (Arvay, 1998; Arvay, 2002; Arvay, 2003), which is also profoundly relational centred (Finlay & Evans, 2009) was the style of narrative inquiry most suited to this research study because not only does it align with my philosophical positioning, but it is respectfully well-suited to the sensitive nature of the research topic.

Doing reflexivity: A collaborative narrative approach

The collaborative, narrative approach (Arvay, 1998; Arvay, 2002; Arvay, 2003) is the product of ‘methodological innovation’ (Squire et al, 2014:vii) being a bespoke development in response to the originator’s identification of a lack of an extant qualitative methodology, which sufficiently embodied participants stories. It has clearly stated aims, being to be ‘collaborative, to attend to power relations within research, and to deal with issues around voice and representation’ (Arvay, 2003:163). Unsurprisingly then, its key concepts focus on relational-centred collaboration and reflexivity, the purpose being to ‘co-create research environments that are participatory and emancipatory’ (Arvay, 2003:163). As already stated, the suitability of this approach to the research topic is obvious, given that those who experience a fundamentalist religious upbringing were commonly silenced in their developmental years, and may never have verbalized this aspect of their story as adults. Moreover, the seven-stage structured process, being ‘setting the stage – a reflexive preliminary interview; the performance; co-constructing the research interview; the transcription process; four collaborative interpretative readings; the interpretative interview; writing the narratives and sharing the story’ (Arvay, 2003:163) arguably counters the common perception of narrative inquiry as unstructured. Although, as the originator acknowledge, the collaborative, narrative approach (Arvay, 1998; Arvay, 2002; Arvay, 2003) is acknowledged to be ‘extensive, time-consuming and very personal’ (Arvay, 2003:163) and consequently seen as demanding of all co-researchers, although a transparent strength is its respect for the integrity of participants stories through the provision of numerous opportunities for collegial critical reflexivity (Guccione & Wellington, 2017). This in turn, enables the avoidance of ‘methodolatry’ (Reicher, 2002; Wellington, 2013) and the maintenance of doctorateness.

Carrying out the research

It has been a privilege to utilise the specific tools and methods of the chosen methodology as, while the whole research process has unquestionably been rigorous, demanding, and time-consuming, the pertinent importance of this study has been obvious at each stage of the journey. For example, at recruitment stage, the number of expressions of interest in participation were astonishing, and while some people dropped out once the level of required commitment was understood, purposeful sampling was used to gain as much representation as possible across the Abrahamic faiths, with eight co-researchers being invited to proceed (although one later withdrew due to the commitment required), providing proof of the recognised demands of the chosen methodology. Additionally, I initially had the pleasure of meeting in person with each co-researcher. Even though this entailed travelling all over the United Kingdom, it was an honour to share both our own stories (unusually, the methodology allows me to share elements of my own story), and anonymized clients’ stories on the research subject. Throughout the seven-stage process, the seven remaining co-researchers were actively engaged in the collaborative, reflexive and analytical work, and when the Covid-19 virus abruptly interrupted the plan to meet again for an interpretative interview, following the four interpretative readings, working online via a secure platform was then collaborative agreed for the remaining conversations.

The current position

The work with the co-researchers is now complete, and I remain profoundly and deeply grateful to each one of my co-researchers. They have generously shared their stories and committed a great deal of time and effort in collaborative, reflexive and relational-centred pursuance of utilising a methodology that, while complex and time-consuming, has been respectful to the stories that have been told. All the co-researchers, including the person who withdrew just before analysis stage, have given very generously of themselves, and I am indebted to each one of them. However, it has become apparent that their giving has not been totally altruistic (as indicated in their reflexive feedback at the end of our work together) because while research can never be therapy, it can certainly have therapeutic benefits. I have also been profoundly impacted by the depth of connection with each co-researcher, the similarity of stories in some cases and all that has been mutually shared cannot be under-estimated.

However, there is still a great deal of further work to do as I am currently in the process of developing the findings of my research and re-engaging with the literature in a systematic and comprehensive way while also writing up my thesis of 65,000 words (+/- 10%). All of this is an extremely onerous process, especially given the added isolation and loneliness of disconnection from family and friends in this Covid-19 era, and I am constantly mindful of the need to attend to my own self-care by walking in nature daily to restore perspective and with the recent re-discovery of an old hobby of cross-stitch being creatively rewarding.

Reflections on this journey of personal and professional development from a Christian worldview

Despite the restrictive nature of my fundamentalist religious upbringing, I continue to acknowledge some beneficial gains, including the acquisition of knowledge about religious matters from a young age, foundational beliefs and values and the sense of belonging obtained from the religious community I grew up in, all of which provided me with the foundational building blocks of my current, much-evolved faith and resilience. Yet, in common with some of my co-researchers, I also link both physical and mental health challenges in adulthood to the unhelpful familial environmental dynamics of a ‘them and us’ culture; feeling different; imposed ‘all or nothing’ rules and authoritarian, parental fear mongering. Alongside, from my Christian perspective, I have an anchoring sense of God’s hand on my life in a transformative sense, and I am often drawn to the Japanese concept of ‘Kintsugi: the art of precious scars’ (Lifegate, 2021) and the art of repairing brokenness with gold, silver or platinum so that the broken bowls can become more beautiful than before. Time and time again, I have also been reflected on the Waverley integrative framework (Ashley, 2017; Waverley Abbey College, 2021) and an imago Dei understanding of what it is to be a relational human being, given the relational joys and sorrows that can ensue. This framework also helpfully suggests that there are five areas of human functioning – physical, emotional, rational, volitional and spiritual – in existence. This holistic conceptualisation of humanness has been helpfully informative to the research process for this study, which has been intrinsically relational centred. Alongside, focusing on my own value of integrity, in line with my Christian faith, has been helpful in consideration of quality control in terms of examining the validity and reliability of the work, including the continual assessment of risk to all stakeholders. Further, understanding my own wounds and journey of recovery (Zerubavel & O’Dougherty, 2012), while also being mindful of the ‘power and privilege’ (Oakley et al, 2020) that a researcher has and recognising any emergent seedlings of a ‘hero complex’ (Oakley et al, 2020), has been crucial.

Furthermore, throughout this doctoral journey, I have often recalled the pivotal but rare occasion, in my experience, when I heard God tell me that it was right to apply for the masters’ level training at Waverley Abbey College although, of course, at the time I was totally unaware of the transformative opportunities that would result. Moreover, I also frequently remember the period of chronic illness I experienced some 20 years ago now when, despite the hopelessness of that situation, God promised to ‘restore the years that the locusts [had] eaten’ (Joel 2:25), and reassured me with verses of scripture such as ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11). At the time, it seemed impossible that these promises would be fulfilled, and yet I am enormously grateful for restoration and transformation and recognise that the inter-weaving of personal and professional development has been central to it all. Indeed, I have often used the metaphor of a ‘plait’ to describe the inter-related characteristics of my journey to date, which is ironic given that for the majority of my growing-up years I wore my hair in plaits, as long hair for women was a mandatory requirement within the religious culture I grew up in.

Looking forward

In addition to the completion of my thesis, one of the big things on my horizon now is my doctoral oral examination. However, as time has gone on, the ‘win’ of becoming a doctor has become less important than being part of the infinite learning game whether I successfully pass my oral exam or not. The detrimental impact on my learning if this does not happen will be limited and may even increase my motivation. However, given all the hard work and effort that has gone into this research project, my hope and prayer is that my defence of my thesis will be successful, as my belief is that God will use this research work in even greater ways in the future. Certainly, the original aims remain, (to enable co-researchers to tell their own and/or anonymized clients’ stories on the research topic, to psycho-educate professionals to recognise and understand the influence of a fundamentalist religious upbringing on mental health and wellbeing in adulthood, and to add to the sparse extant literature on this largely hidden topic), and they continue to be my motivation. Nonetheless, as I reflect on this powerful journey of learning, I am so thankful for my faith, which has anchored me throughout and continues to do so, and that I did not treat the developmental requirements of my profession as a simple tick-box exercise.

Footnotes

[1] The client’s details have been altered and anonymised.

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About the author

Gill Harvey MA, BA (Hons) therapeutic counsellor, supervisor, researcher and trainer, Registered BACP (Senior Accredited), BPS Affiliate Member, ACC (Accredited)

Gill is a therapeutic counsellor, supervisor, researcher and trainer, working mainly in private practice. Having obtained her MA at Waverley Abbey College in 2017, she became a doctoral candidate at the Metanoia Institute, carried out a qualitative research study and is currently writing up her dissertation entitled ‘A narrative exploration of the influence of a fundamentalist religious upbringing on mental health and wellbeing in adulthood’. Gill is registered with ACC (Accredited) and BACP (Snr Accredited). She is particularly interested in the relationship between counselling and spirituality as well as early developmental religious experiences and adult mental health and wellbeing.

Contact: counselling@gillharvey.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 7531 046796
Website: gillharvey.co.uk/

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