An investigative study into the attachment styles of trainee therapists and the effects of counselling & psychotherapy training on the romantic relationships of student internships

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Garvey, Alison
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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There is an abundance of literature on attachment from infancy to adulthood, encompassing all forms of relationships. However, there is little research into how attachment relationships are affected by the process of training counsellors and psychotherapists. The objective of this study is to ascertain the attachment styles of trainee therapists and to investigate if their training has affected their romantic relationships and how that has been experienced by the trainees. Both quantitative and qualitative design approaches were used in this study. The Experiences in Close Relationships Questionnaire – Revised (ECRQ-R) was used to establish the attachment style of each participant. The results show there was no attachment style common to all participants, however two attachment styles were in evidence, these were; secure and anxious ambivalent attachment styles. Semi-structured interviews were used, to investigate the participants’ experiences of how they felt the training influenced their romantic relationships. Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to analyse the data, four major themes emerged, these were: (1) Change: Self Development and Coping with the Reality of Change, (2) The Influence of Training on Relationships, (3) Relationship Advice to New Trainees and (4) College Help: The Need for Preparation. From these findings, it would appear that attachment behavioural systems are influenced and may change while in training. Through investigating their own processes the participants’ views of self and others and the world in general were challenged. Ultimately, their perceptions changed which resulted in the participants behaving differently within their relationships with their partners. This research hopes to provide trainees and colleges with a renewed appreciation of how training may affect their relationships and includes possible suggestions for colleges regarding further preparation of trainees in this area.