Exploring experiences of South Asian therapists working with South Asian clients in an ethnically matched counselling service in the UK
: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

  • Sanjivan Parhar

Student thesis: PsychD


Research into ethnic matching within the field of counselling and psychotherapy has predominantly provided empirical evidence for its effectiveness in client outcomes. Qualitative studies have explored ethnic matching in an attempt to portray the experiences of clients and the clinicians who are ethnically matched to them. These studies have shown South Asian culture to have a particular need for ethnic matching due to South Asian clients’ difficulties in relating to non-South Asian therapists. Furthermore, research has posited that South Asian cultural values are in direct contrast to the values and ethos of Western therapeutic training. Therefore, South Asian therapists who have been trained in the UK and provide therapy to South Asian client may have to manage two different value bases. Currently, there is a dearth of literature on South Asian therapists’ experiences of ethnic matching and how they understand any potential benefits and difficulties. This study aimed to provide insights into these questions, through interviewing South Asian therapists who have trained in the UK and are currently working in a UK based ethnic matching service. This aimed to provide unique insights into the experiences of this under researched population. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was applied as the methodology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and the analysis used three layers of interpretation: descriptive, linguistic and conceptual. The sample consisted of six participants who were South Asian therapists and currently working in the same ethnic matching service. Three master themes were identified: ‘A sense of disillusionment’; ‘Tug of war’; and ‘Forging a path’. Within each of the master themes there were two to three subthemes that illustrated a particular facet of the master theme. All themes illuminated to the experience of what it was like to be therapist who is South Asian from training to current practice. The research findings highlighted that there were benefits to ethnic matching, participants felt a stronger connection to their clients, more empathy, and discovered a way of integrating both Western and South Asian values. However, participants also struggled with tensions of over-identification with clients, disillusion and dual roles of being Western trained therapists, who identify with South Asian values and culture. Ideas for future research are discussed, as well as the implications for Counselling Psychology.
Date of Award17 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorCatherine Gilvarry (Director of Studies) & Jasmine Childs-Fegredo (Co-Supervisor)


  • Ethnicity
  • Therapist experiences
  • Ethnic matching
  • South Asian

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