A qualitative study using interpretative phenomenological analysis to explore the lived experience of primary school-based counsellors delivering their service in a time of crisis

  • Rosemary Parry

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Background: School-based counselling has been an established and recognised way of offering support for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing since the 1960’s, although longer established within secondary school provision compared to primary school provision. Whilst literature on school-based counselling is rich in many aspects, to date, there is a paucity which explores the delivery of United Kingdom (UK) school-based counselling to primary-age clients in a time of crisis.Aims:This research study aims to explore how a time of crisis was understood by primary school-based counsellors and what it meant for them to deliver their service to primary-age clients. To address this, the research question was: What is the lived experience of primary school-based counsellors delivering their service in a time of crisis?

    Methodology: This qualitative research study uses phenomenology as a philosophical basis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted online with seven primary school-based counsellors who worked in England. Interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).

    Findings: From the analysis, four themes emerged: ‘Valued versus unvalued’, ‘A fine line...’, Zoom landings!’ and ‘Questioning my therapeutic self’. The findings revealed that participants’ sense-making of being valued had a strong influence on service delivery. Novel engagements with parents, school staff and school leaders as part of the broader school system, raised professional and moral dilemmas. Using technology for service delivery revealed unexpected insights and understandings. Recommendations for further research include exploring benefits and risks of using technology to deliver school-based counselling to primary-age clients.

    Conclusion: The lived experience of primary school-based counsellors delivering their service was largely dependent on school leaders’ understanding, valuing and prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing. Integration within a school system and service delivery as part of a whole school approach, resulted in professional insights and understandings. Technology played a beneficial part in service delivery but training gaps included utilising technology with primary-age clients and working with those clients in the broader contexts of their community, family and school systems.
    Date of AwardJun 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGina Dolan (Supervisor), Shelley Gait (Supervisor) & Sheila Spong (Supervisor)

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