Mapping the Songlines of contemporary Australian psychology: An exploration of the subjective experience of registered psychologists required to work within the Boulder model frame

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The scientist-practitioner or Boulder model of pedagogy is a pivotal informant to the practice of Australian psychology (e.g. Australian Psychology Accreditation Council [APAC], 2010, 2014a). The express aim of this pedagogy is to shift psychology from a space of 'rudimentary [scientific] knowledge' into 'being a science' (Shakow, 1965, p. 353) through the privileging of knowledge generated by empirical research, which it becomes the practitioner's role to apply. Yet despite the paradigm's legislated uptake (APAC), no formal evaluation of the model in terms of its impact on endorsed, and currently practicing clinicians, has been conducted. Using core tenets of Hollway and Jefferson's Free Association Narrative and Interview Method (FANI, 2013), and concepts delineated by Klein (1997), my thesis provides an initial evaluation. Contrary to what is required of them, findings from my data show that clinicians claiming to practice in an evidence-based manner, may adhere only to the main tenets of that approach. Consequently, the pure form of the evidence-based approach may undergo a subtle evolution, such that it is no longer quite that evidence-based practice tested using randomised controlled trials, and presented as 'best practice' by formalised psychology. I term this phenomenon 'morphing'.Clinicians may also refer to the existence of an othered psychology, experienced by the practitioner as an externally imposed expectation to practice within an evidence-based frame, understood as synonymous with CBT. Othered psychology may be presented as a divisive force separating those who practice in accordance with its expectations, and those who do not, obfuscating their professional role, and capacity to facilitate effective treatment outcomes for their client. Moreover, in direct contrast with the legislated requirement for therapists to apply scientifically generated knowledge, I provide evidence that a practitioner's preferred therapeutic approach may arise out of influences that are not necessarily evidence-based. Instead, clinicians may draw on their autobiographical experience, personal belief sets and professional reflections. Practitioners may also draw on many and varied metaphors or theories. Clinicians may 'throw' each metaphor into the therapy, and 'test' for its usefulness using the therapeutic relationship. If one metaphor does not work, they seek to create another metaphor in collaboration with their client, or draw out another possibility from their 'bag'. Viewed in this way, it is the therapeutic alliance (as opposed to a capacity to apply published techniques) which forms the ultimate arbiter of what does or does not constitute effective therapy. This finding is in direct contrast to how formalised psychology portrays 'best practice'. In providing evidence to demonstrate how these problems may manifest and be resolved (or not) by some therapists, I am providing the broader discipline with insight into how best, or how better to train and manage practitioners throughout their career. Instead of entrance into the profession being determined by academic acumen and capacity to maintain a distinction average in statistical subjects, of greatest value is the individual's propensity for phronesis thinking, belief sets around what it is they are seeking to move their clients towards, and the ability to self reflect and build relationships.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Selby, Jane, Co-Supervisor
  • Bradley, Benjamin, Co-Supervisor
Award date01 Jun 2016
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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