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Editorial: Listening to Lived Experience

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Jane Marsden

 While the concept and research strategy of lived experience are still evolving, there is no doubt that they can “inform sharp critique” when used judiciously, particularly in the fields of social justice, health, and wellbeing (McIntosh & Wright, 2019, p. 449). Thus, for the development of psychotherapy, counselling, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing practices, it is important to provide platforms for researchers with lived experiences of oppression, marginalisation, and diversity of gender, body, kinship, and sexuality (Barton, 2020; Bowers et al., 2007). In terms of qualitative research, lived experience is “a representation and understanding of a researcher or research subject’s human experiences, choices, and options and how those factors influence one’s perception of knowledge . . . [it] tries to understand why some experiences are privileged over others” (Boylorn, 2008, p. 490). Fittingly, Volume 10(2) of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia (PACJA) celebrates the richness and diversity of our community of practitioners, the work that they do, and the people they work with.

Oehlman Forbes (2022), a psychotherapist, examines the often overlooked subject of women’s friendships, particularly those involving interpersonal rejection, which can precipitate acute or chronic rumination. Her overview of philosophical, historical, social, and psychological perspectives includes relational-cultural theory (RCT), adult attachment theory, response styles theory, and minority stress theory—the latter when considering how ostracism affects women with sexual orientation differences. This article informs practice by advocating for RCT and mentalisation-based therapy when working with distress around women’s friendship dissolution.

Drawing from his PhD project, gestalt therapist O’Regan (2022) highlights the tensions between gestalt practitioner education and the contemporary neoliberal context. He argues that gestalt training institutes’ shift towards accreditation and higher education qualifications may compromise core gestalt values such as authenticity, optimism, shared leadership, embodied experience, and “being” rather than “doing”.

Sarantakis’ (2022) single-client case study follows the therapeutic journey of a woman from a working-class background dealing with PhD-related anxiety at an elite university. Using careful reflexivity, the author describes a collaborative, humanistic approach which uncovered the culturally embedded conditions for his client to feel valued by herself and others. This strengths-based approach coincided with a decrease in her anxiety and an increase in decision-making capacity.

This issue also has some excellent papers by first-time journal authors. Psychotherapist Buys (2022) tracks her own lived experience of anorexia and bulimia and advocates for narrative therapy as a primary treatment option for eating disorders. Salameh (2022), a counsellor, looks at the perennial subject of burnout and compassion fatigue among mental health practitioners, but with insights from the COVID-19 context. Her recommended strategies for prevention and mitigation will be useful information for individual practitioners and employers. These stakeholders, along with students, academic institutions, and professional bodies, will also be interested in the findings of Lamb (2022), whose qualitative phenomenological study investigated the lived experience of early career counsellors. Lamb suggests that students’ practicum placement is among several factors contributing to successful entry into the profession.

Spence (2022) begins their review of Supporting transgender autistic youth and adults: A guide for professionals and families (Gratton, 2020) by noting that Gratton shares their identification as queer, neurodivergent, non-binary, and transgender. In addition, Gratton identifies as autistic. Because Spence is a psychotherapist working with queer and transgender people, many of whom also identify as neurodivergent, they are grateful for Gratton’s invitation to readers to explore the complex experiences and unmet needs of this marginalised population. This invitation is through accessible and practical “do-it-yourself training”, including experiential exercises, which help readers dismantle their existing biases and assumptions instead of taking them for granted. This “empathic immersion course [invites] readers to expand the way they see the world” (Spence, 2022, para. 13).

Also inviting readers to expand their perspectives on knowledge, cultural humility, and lived experience is guest editor Dr. Gávi Ansara who painstakingly prepared the two articles on systemic and community-informed approaches to climate justice. Dr. Ansara’s guest editor’s note previews these papers, one by psychotherapist and climate activist Kökçinar (2022), and the other by Azuri (2022), a counsellor. A former acting editor of PACJA, Dr. Ansara was guest editor of Volume 8(2), PACJA’s special issue on anti-oppressive practice in psychotherapy and counselling. I am very grateful for his ongoing commitment to the journal. Also deserving thanks are the many others who worked on this issue, including the PACFA Research Committee, PACJA Editorial Board, peer reviewers, copy editors, and typesetter. 

Last month the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) held its 5-day conference on “Safety Through Diversity”. Perhaps reflecting a genuine thirst among practitioners to listen to and learn from those with lived experience, the days that were best attended were those that focused on Indigenous healing practices and diversity in gender, body, kinship, and sexuality. I look forward to helping provide a platform for some of the learnings from this festival of ideas in the next PACJA issue. As always, submissions related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing practices, counselling, and psychotherapy, particularly from or about those with lived experience of these topics, will be warmly received (editor@pacja.org.au).

References

Azuri, N. (2022). Turning towards our desire to turn away: Climate disavowal in the context of the Australian counselling profession. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 2.

Barton, J. (2020). Doing qualitative research with interpretative phenomenological analysis. In S Bager-Charleson & A. McBeath (Eds.), Enjoying research in counselling and psychotherapy: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research (pp. 51–69). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55127-8_4

Bowers, B., Minichiello, V., & Plummer, D. (2007). Qualitative research in counseling: A reflection for novice counsellor researchers. The Qualitative Report, 12(1), 131–145. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2007.1650

Boylorn, R. M. (2008). Lived Experience. In L. M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encylopedia of qualitative research methods (p. 490). Thousand Oaks: Sage. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412963909

Buys, M. (2022). Reversing the panopticon: On narrative therapy and its place in the treatment of eating disorders. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 7.

Gratton, F. V. (2020). Supporting transgender autistic youth and adults: A guide for professionals and families. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Kökçinar, R. R. (2022). Climate change-related distress within the dominant mental health paradigm: problems, pitfalls, and a possible way forward. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 1.

Lamb, C. (2022). The transition from postgraduate counselling student to working counsellor: A qualitative investigation. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 5.

McIntosh, I., & Wright, S. (2019). Exploring what the notion of ‘lived experience’ offers for social policy analysis. Journal of Social Policy, 48(3), 449–467. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279418000570

Oehlman Forbes, D. J. (2022). Interpersonal rejection, ostracism, and mentalisation in women’s friendships: Clinical implications for rumination. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 4.

O’Regan, P. (2022). Contemporary gestalt psychotherapy: The tensions between practitioner education and the current cultural context. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 8.

Salameh, N. (2022). The adverse effects of burnout and compassion fatigue among mental health practitioners: Self-care strategies for prevention and mitigation. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 6.

Sarantakis, N. (2022). Exploring the future social identity of a PhD student dealing with anxiety: A psychotherapy client study. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 3.

Spence, L. (2022). [Review of the book, Supporting transgender autistic youth and adults: A guide for professionals and families, by F. V. Gratton]. Psychotherapy and Counselling Journal of Australia, 10(2), Article 9.