This study explores Black African women’s experiences of engaging in counselling in the UK, which was achieved by exploring participants’ lived counselling experiences. The study also explored whether the participants’ experiences will impact future engagement with counselling. This study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as the methodology. The six participants recruited for this study had all migrated to the UK from Africa.
The findings from this study describe participants’ experiences of engaging in counselling, as interpreted within the three emerging master themes, namely; Preconceptions, stigma, skepticism about attending counselling and preferred ways of coping, The important characteristics within the counselling experience and Post counselling reflections on the therapeutic process and changed perceptions. The first master theme groups together the participants’ cultural beliefs about counselling before they began. This included preconceptions, scepticism about the therapist, stigma associated with counselling engagement, and the participants’ preferred ways of coping with psychological distress as an alternative for counselling. The second master theme describes the participants’ experiences of being in counselling and present with a therapist. This was influenced by the therapist’s characteristics, the therapist’s way of working, and the quality of therapeutic relationship established. The third master theme encapsulates the participants’ post therapy reflections, where they described the end of their counselling journey. This included their comments about aspects of the counselling that they felt needed changing to make counselling a more positive experience for them, should they require it in the future, including the counselling pathway and the counselling environment. All six participants expressed a change of perception about various aspects of counselling after they had completed their counselling journey. Overall, this was found to be a good experience despite two participants being dissatisfied with their counselling.
The findings from this study highlight that different factors influence this group of Black African women’s engagement with counselling. These include personal, structural, and institutional factors. The study offers suggestions for policy makers, health care providers, and the practice of counselling, to consider providing services more tailored to meet the needs of Black African women in the UK.