‘Tír na Scáile’ (Shadowlands): an exploration into the intercultural dimension of the therapeutic relationship


O'Connor, L. 2014. ‘Tír na Scáile’ (Shadowlands): an exploration into the intercultural dimension of the therapeutic relationship. Thesis Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute Psychology
Title‘Tír na Scáile’ (Shadowlands): an exploration into the intercultural dimension of the therapeutic relationship
AuthorsO'Connor, L.

This study is concerned with the intercultural dimension of the therapeutic relationship, the main research question being: “How, in an English context, is the therapeutic work between a ‘white’ Irish client and a white English therapist/counsellor conceptualized or understood?” Due to a tendency in transcultural literature, training, research and practice to define racial and ethnic difference in terms of skin ‘colour’, underlying historical, socioeconomic and political racialization processes have remained largely unexamined. In addressing this gap, the study specifically explores the transgenerational impact of a joint colonial history on the present-day therapeutic relationship between ‘white’ Irish clients and white English therapists/counsellors from a client perspective. The ‘white’ Irish clients’ lived experiences, perceptions and understanding of cultural difference at interweaving societal, interpersonal and intrapsychic relational levels were captured. Using a constructivist grounded-theory approach, a cooperative inquiry was undertaken with seven ‘white’ Irish therapists/counsellors who lived and had therapy in England. The data were systematically analysed to produce findings grounded in the clients’ words and lived experiences. The findings were presented to a group of white English therapists/counsellors during the course of a dialogic workshop. They indicate that the historical-colonial relational dynamics and the legacy of the associated racialization processes live on unacknowledged in the present-day therapeutic relationship between the ex-colonized and ex-colonizer. The findings have implications for training, research and practice. They clearly indicate that the experience and effect of felt racial and ethnic difference reach far ‘beneath’ that which is perceived. Particularly significant was the identified need to reexamine constructs such as ‘race’, ‘colour’, ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘difference’ in light of the deeper historical, socioeconomic and political processes that produce them. Importantly, the study highlights the need for psychotherapists/counsellors to incorporate the greater cultural and historical context, together with its inherent power processes and structures, into the conceptualization of their client work. In doing so, the capacity to integrate information from multiple disciplines is deemed essential.

Department namePsychology
Institution nameMiddlesex University / Metanoia Institute
Publication dates
Print23 Feb 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Feb 2015
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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