A qualitative exploration of young peoples’ experiences of significant relational events in the context of a developing therapeutic relationship

  • Shiri Gurvitz

Student thesis: PsychD


The purpose of this study was to explore young peoples’ experiences of the development of the therapeutic relationship. Interview data was collected from eight young people (aged 13-15) receiving either school-based or community-based counselling. Participants were asked to describe the development of the therapeutic relationship, and later to identify significant relational events within it.
Analysis using Constructivist Grounded Theory consisted of two stages. In the first stage, a conceptual map was created to describe the development of the therapeutic relationship. This consisted of three categories: 1. The ‘doing’ of counselling; 2. ‘More myself’: Freedom to be authentic; and 3. Developing a ‘felt-sense’ of a real relationship. These centred around a core category: Defying expectations: Co-constructing a unique relationship.
In the second stage, 10 significant relational events were analysed and categorised into two over-arching domains: Significant Disclosure Events (SDEs), and Significant Insight Events (SIEs). These domains were contextualised within the conceptual map from the first stage of analysis, highlighting different categories within it. This demonstrated how participants attributed different importance to various relational processes in the development of the therapeutic relationship, with SDE accounts emphasising client agency and authenticity, and SIE accounts emphasising counsellor agency and authenticity.
The results suggest that young people value the development of an authentic therapeutic relationship characterised by its difference from other relationships, in which they can interact with their counsellor in different ways. It is suggested that by engaging with young clients’ narratives regarding the purpose of the therapeutic relationship, counsellors can gain important insights for developing stronger therapeutic relationships which resonate with clients’ different relational styles.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorMick Cooper (Supervisor) & Anna Seymour (Supervisor)

Cite this