Assistant, Trainee and Qualified Psychologists’ Personal Experiences of Caring for Others and the Influence of Caring on Clinical Practice
The aim of the study is to explore the relationship between the unpaid personal caring experiences of psychologists and the perceived impact on their clinical practice and sense of self. The intersection between psychologists as a staff group, their reflections on unpaid caring experiences and the relationship between informal caring and their professional practice was explored in the literature. Due to the paucity of published research in the area, the introduction explored the theoretical base of carer research, the construction of empathy in clinical practice and the lived experiences of psychologists. In this way, a theoretical context for the study was set. Using a Thematic Analysis methodology, fifteen psychologists were recruited and interviewed about their current and/or historical caring experiences. Six themes were established from analysis of the data set: personal and professional roles; the emergence of a carer identity; changing/evolving relationship with loved one; carer stress and strain; impact on professional practice; dual positioning. Within these results there was a strong sense of the heightening of empathy for clients/service users and carers, and the complexity of holding dual identities on the individuals themselves as they fulfil their clinical roles. The study’s findings suggest that psychologists’ own processed experiences of emotional pain, arising from caring experiences, may enable a closer understanding and regard for empathic connections with clients/service users and carers. Whilst undertaking these personal caring roles may also enable psychologists to feel more empathic attunement to clients and carers within the healthcare system, and this can have clinical benefits, it may also have potential drawbacks. Within this, there was also the suggestion that there may continue to be some aspects of residual emotional pain. This pain may be susceptible to being triggered within clinical practice, which psychologists were cognizant of, as they would be of any potential stimulus within their professional work.
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