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

*Corresponding author for this work

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number742676
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Early online date6 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2021


  • Dialogue
  • Epistemic (In)Justice
  • Pluralism
  • Psychotherapy research
  • Social relevance

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