Clinical Psychologist’s Accounts of Personal Distress Experienced Within the Profession: A Discourse Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Lynch, M. 2021. Clinical Psychologist’s Accounts of Personal Distress Experienced Within the Profession: A Discourse Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsLynch, M.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This study is concerned with ways that clinical psychologists construct the clinical psychologist’s experience of distress, in relation to their professional identity, and the implications these constructions have for their social practices in relation to personal distress. Nine qualified clinical psychologists in practice in the NHS were interviewed using a semi-structured interview approach. Data from these interviews was analysed using a discourse-informed approach to Thematic Analysis. Three overarching themes were formed: psychologist’s distress is constructed as part of the human condition, work with distress as a difficult and skilled practice, negotiating dilemmas of professional identity and role. These themes are discussed with reference to the socio-cultural and historical context of the profession of Clinical Psychology. In dialogue with literature and research pertaining to clinical psychologist’s distress and help-seeking, and broader aspects of the institutional and professional context. Findings supported the view that the ways contemporary clinical psychologists in the NHS are positioned by language, social practices, and institutions can function to constrain clinical psychologists from talking about personal distress and accessing support.
However, findings also indicated that there is scope in the contemporary clinical psychologist professional identity for resistance to discourses and practices that limit space for clinical psychologists to acknowledge their own vulnerability. Implications for Clinical Psychology practice and further research are considered. In conclusion, it is suggested that the acknowledgement of a human vulnerability by clinical psychologists can create the conditions for individual and collective action to respond to distress experienced by clinical psychologists, and their colleagues, in the NHS.

KeywordsDistress; NHS; Clinical Psychologists; mental health professionals; mental health; stigma; help-seekin; resilience; Burnout; continuum model; othering; us-and-them
PublisherUniversity of East London
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Publication dates
Online21 Jul 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted22 Mar 2021
Deposited21 Jul 2021
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License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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