Rethinking Child Mental Health Play Therapy Counsellors' Relational Practices with Parents

Rosa Bologna

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    A perspective based on relationalism holds that relationships between people are embedded within complex contexts and are shaped by a dialectical relationship between conscious and unconscious influences. My thesis explores the question: What is the nature of Child Mental Health Play Therapy (CMHPT) counsellors’ understandings and critical reflexivity regarding influences on their relational practices with parents? This question arose from my observations of several practice issues in the CMHPT counselling field and gaps in the literature pertaining to CMHPT counsellors’ work with parents. A high dropout rate, where parents prematurely take their children out of treatment, is one of a number of practice issues associated with CMHPT counsellors’ interaction with parents.

    To comprehensively explore my research phenomenon from a relational perspective with an emphasis on unconscious influences, I adopted a bricolage sensibility which enabled me to form innovative partnerships and dialectical interplays between different disciplines, theoretical perspectives, paradigms, and methods. To define and conceptualise the phenomenon of relational practices, I drew from social constructionism, sociological relationalism, and practice theory. Additionally, I developed a theoretical thought partnership between Pierre Bourdieu and Carl Jung to construct my theoretical thinking tool kit. I used this tool kit to more deeply inform the nature of CMHPT counsellors’ understandings and critical reflexivity regarding personal, social, and collective unconscious influences on their relational practices with parents. I positioned my research at the juncture of social constructivist and critical paradigms and used critical hermeneutics as my philosophical framework. I incorporated and adapted aspects of Paul Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics and Carl Jung’s active imagination approach to develop my Critical Imaginal Hermeneutic Spiral, which I used as a guide for my text construction and text interpretation processes. My text construction strategy involved conducting a series of three in-depth, semi-structured interviews with seven qualified CMHPT counsellors practising in NSW, Australia. The interviews were conducted over a three-month period (with each participant). Between the first and second interview I asked participants to create images relating to their relational practices with parents. Together with participants, I unpacked their imaginal products by drawing on Jungian and gestalt traditions associated with imaginal sense-making processes.

    My research findings address several gaps in the CMHPT counselling literature pertaining to how CMHPT counsellors’ relational practices with parents are conceptualised and studied and ultimately how they are understood. The outcome of this understanding was the development of my Critical Imaginal Reflexivity Model, which provides opportunities for deeper critical reflexivity and dialogue regarding CMHPT counsellors’ taken-for-granted practices with parents. The Critical Imaginal Reflexivity Model provides a unique, systemic guide for CMHPT counselling practice, education, and supervision, including developing CMHPT counsellors’ critical reflexivity, and in turn minimising the adverse impact of unconscious influences on their relational practices with parents. The model contributes to informing professional practice capabilities required by CMHPT counsellors to effectively work with parents and in turn create best outcomes for children.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Trede, Franziska, Principal Supervisor
    • Patton, Narelle, Co-Supervisor
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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