1rch is important
There are many myths and fantasies about research. These often include
vivid images of white coats and laboratories. People with practical skills
and competencies may believe that research is something that is `beyond'
them. A very prevalent myth in the therapy world is that research is
about numbers, impenetrable statistics and large samples and has no
place for ordinary human feelings and experiences. Another myth is that
research necessarily ignores the uniqueness of the individual. It can be
hard for some therapists to identify with the role of being a researcher.
The researcher is someone who is an expert, who knows. Running
through these images and fantasies is a sense of research as another
world, a kind of parallel universe that takes what is happening in the real
world and processes it through computers.
These myths, perhaps stated here in an exaggerated form, act as a bar-
rier that stops therapists from becoming engaged in research and making
use of research-based knowledge to enrich their practice. A more con-
structive point of view is to start from the acknowledgement that we do
`research' all the time. Each of us has a model or map of the world, and
is continually seeking new evidence with which to verify or alter that
model. A therapy session with a client can be seen as a piece of research,
a piecing together of information and understandings, followed by test-
ing the validity of conclusions and actions based on that shared knowing.
Over dozens of clients and hundreds of sessions we build up our own
theories of what different types of client are like and what is effective
with them. These personal theories almost always have some connection
to `official' theories, but retain an idiosyncratic element originating in
the unique experiences of the individual therapist.
The aim of this book is to de-mystify research, to puncture these myths
and to position research as a friend, a familiar and well-understood
dimension of everyday practice. In this chapter, a pragmatic definition of
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2 Introducing counselling and psychotherapy research
research is offered, and examples are provided of the some of the ways in
which research knowledge and skills contribute to effective counselling
Exercise 1.1 Images of research
Take a few moments to relax and centre yourself. When you are ready, reflect
on the images, metaphors and fantasies that come to mind when you think
about the idea of `research.' You might find it helpful to imagine how you might
complete statements such as:
?? research is ...
?? if a researcher was an animal, he or she might be a ...
?? what I like/appreciate about therapy research is ...
?? what I fear about therapy research is ...
Take a few minutes to note down (visually and/or in words) the images and
metaphors that occur to you. What do these images tell you about such
?? the role of research in our culture/society
?? the reactions that clients and therapists might have if asked to take part
in a research study
?? your own barriers and motivators around learning more about research.
A pragmatic definition of research
A useful working definition of research is: a systematic process of critical
inquiry leading to valid propositions and conclusions that are communicated
to interested others. Breaking this definition down into its component
meanings allows some of the assumptions that lie behind it to be made
1 The concept of critical inquiry. Research grows out of the primary
human tendency or need to learn, to know, to solve problems, to
question received wisdom and taken-for-granted assumptions.
These impulses are fundamentally critical; the need to know is the
counterpoint to the sense that what is already known is not quite
2 Research as a process of inquiry. Any research involves a series of
steps or stages. Knowledge must be constructed, through a cyclical
process of observation, reflection and acts of experimentation.
3 Research is systematic. There are two distinct sets of meanings asso-
ciated with the notion that research should be systematic. The first
is that any investigation takes place within a theoretical system of
01_McLeod_Ch-01.indd 2 12/11/2012 12:36:25 PM
Why research is important 3
concepts or constructs. A piece of research is embedded in a frame-
work or way of seeing the world. Second, research involves the
application of a method, which has been designed to achieve
knowledge that is as valid and truthful as possible.
4 The products of research are propositions or statements. There is a
distinction between research and learning. Experiential knowing, or
`knowing how', can be a valuable outcome of an inquiry process, but
research always involves communication with others. Learning can
occur at an individual, intuitive level, but research requires the sym-
bolisation and transmission of these understandings in the public
5 Research findings are judged according to criteria of validity, truth-
fulness or authenticity. To make a claim that a statement is based on
research is to imply that it is in some way more valid or accurate
than a statement based on personal opinion. However, every culture
has its own distinctive criteria or `logic of justification' for accepting
a theory or statement as valid. For example, within mainstream psy-
chology truth value is equated with statements based on rational,
objective experimentation. In psychoanalysis, truth value is judged
on the basis of clinical experience.
6 Research is communicated to interested others; it takes place within a
research community. No single research study has much meaning in
isolation. Research studies provide the individual pieces that fit
together to create the complex mosaic of the literature on a topic.
Research can be viewed as a form of collective knowing that reflects
the best efforts of a community to arrive at some level of agreement
about how best to proceed in relation to practical concerns.
This definition of research is intended to demonstrate that there are
many ways of arriving at valid propositional knowledge in the field of
therapy. The definition does not imply that research must be `scientific',
nor does it make assumptions about what constitutes science. In
technologically advanced modern societies, it is all too readily assumed
that `research' equals `science' and that scientific methods represent the
only acceptable means of generating useful knowledge. A great deal of
research into counselling and psychotherapy has followed this route, in
taking for granted the rules and canons of scientific method and
constructing therapy as a sub-branch of applied psychology or as a
discipline allied to medicine. However, there are strong arguments in
support of the position that therapy may be more appropriately
regarded as an interdisciplinary activity, using concepts and methods
from the arts and humanities, theology, philosophy and sociology as
well as psychology and medicine. If this perspective is adopted, it is
essential that research in counselling is defined in such a way as to give
equal weight and legitimacy to methods of inquiry drawn from all of
01_McLeod_Ch-01.indd 3 12/11/2012 12:36:25 PM
What are the benefits of conducting market research?Benefits of conducting market research Conducting market research is important to provide the venture with customer information, competitor information and industry trends. Moreover, market research can help the venture understand threats and opportunities facing the business. The information from this type of research is important in formulating and evaluating the venture's marketing strategies.
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