A Pluralistic Perspective on Research in Psychotherapy: Harnessing Passion, Difference and Dialogue to Promote Justice and Relevance

Kate Smith, John McLeod, Nicola Blunden, Mick Cooper, Lynne Gabriel, Christine Kupfer, Julia McLeod, Marie-Clare Murphie, Hanne Weie Oddli, Mhairi Thurston, Laura Anne Winter

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The adoption of a pluralistic perspective on research design, processes of data collection and analysis and dissemination of findings, has the potential to enable psychotherapy research to make a more effective contribution to building a just society. A review of the key features of the concept of pluralism is followed by a historical analysis of the ways in which research in counselling, psychotherapy and related disciplines has moved in the direction of a pluralistic position around knowledge creation. Core principles of a pluralistic approach to research are identified and explored in the context of a critical case study of contemporary research into psychotherapy for depression, examples of pluralistically oriented research practices, and analysis of a pluralistic conceptualisation of the nature of evidence. Implications of a pluralistic perspective for research training and practice are discussed. Pluralistic inquiry that emphasises dialogue, collaboration, epistemic justice and the co-existence of multiple truths, creates opportunities for individuals, families and communities from a wide range of backgrounds to co-produce knowledge in ways that support their capacities for active citizenship and involvement in open democratic decision-making. To fulfil these possibilities, it is necessary for psychotherapy research to be oriented towards social goals that are sufficiently relevant to both researchers and co-participants to harness their passion and work together for a common good.

© 2021, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742676
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2021


  • Psychology
  • dialogue
  • epistemic (in)justice
  • pluralism
  • psychotherapy research
  • social relevance

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