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Bereavement counselling in Northern Ireland and Uganda: a comparative qualitative study of professional therapists’ perspectives

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posted on 09.07.2015, 09:45 by Lorna Dalzell-Montgomery
The conceptual analysis and empirical research presented in this thesis explores bereavement counselling in two settings. It compares the organisation, function, practices and belief systems characteristic of bereavement counselling in Northern Ireland, a province within the United Kingdom, and the Sub-Saharan African country of Uganda. In total, 41 qualitative interviews (38 informants) were conducted with bereavement counsellors across settings, exploring their perceptions and experiences. These were thematically analysed. The findings focused on four interweaving issues: the counselling context, the characteristics of counsellors, the characteristics of clients and counselling practices. Secondary data was gathered from desk research and participant observations. The conceptual framework for this comparison combined a psychological and sociological approach, derived from a comparative analysis of the theories of Sigmund Freud and Norbert Elias. Although Freud has generated the fundamental theoretical assumptions that continue to guide bereavement counselling, Elias’s figurational framework ultimately presented a stronger explanation for, and understanding of, the contrasting characteristics of bereavement counselling in the two societies, avoiding the reified and static notions often embedded in so-called ‘cross-cultural’ research. An analysis of the findings has provided insights into the chosen theories and into bereavement counselling practices in each setting. In Uganda, Western models of counselling proved to be ethnocentric, because they are based fundamentally on working with Western notions of the presence of an individualised ego. Key features of these models appeared to require adaptation to non-Western settings. In Northern Ireland, counsellors were found to acknowledge the importance of interpersonal factors in bereavement reactions whilst working, almost exclusively, with intra-psychic processes. The levels of complexity of interdependency networks in the two settings appeared to influence counselling processes in substantially different ways.



Pugh, Valerie

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Institute of Lifelong Learning

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University of Leicester

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