An exploratory study of perceptions and experiences of counselling among Scottish gypsy/traveller women

Lucy Arnot, Mhairi Thurston

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of counselling among Scottish gypsy/traveller women. In doing so, the study aimed to identify some of the barriers to counselling for gypsy/travellers and consider how services can respond to this.
    Much has been written about the health of gypsy/travellers and access to services. However, there appears to be no research specifically addressing access to counselling or gypsy/travellers’ experiences of therapy. This study addresses this research gap by employing a qualitative approach to explore the perspectives and experiences of female gypsy/travellers.

    The study adopted an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach, drawing on semi-structured interviews with six gypsy/traveller women with self-reported poor mental health.
    All participants were aged in their 40s/50s and living in central Scotland, and were identified through the researcher’s role working with a charity supporting minority ethnic carers.
    An idiographic approach was taken towards data analysis, identifying emerging themes and patterns across the interviews.

    Analysis of the interviews revealed an overarching theme of ‘holding back’. Participants anticipated prejudice in the counselling room and reported withholding their Gypsy/Traveller identity from counsellors. Participants also reported a fear of counselling opening up painful feelings and had found ways of ‘just getting on’ with their difficulties.

    Research Limitations:
    As an IPA study, the sample size was small, making it difficult to generalise the findings to all Scottish gypsy/traveller women. However, this provided rich data capturing the lived experiences of participants.
    The dual role of researcher and charity worker also posed some challenges to researcher subjectivity. However, this is also considered an asset to the research, particularly in terms of access to participants and counteracting the ‘research fatigue’ that exists in the community.

    This study helps counsellors and psychotherapists to understand the experiences of female gypsy/travellers and to reflect on how their practice can be more accessible to the community and, ultimately, more culturally competent.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2017
    Event23rd Annual BACP Research Conference: Research and reflective practice for the counselling profession - The Crowne Plaza, Chester, United Kingdom
    Duration: 19 May 201720 May 2017
    Conference number: 23


    Conference23rd Annual BACP Research Conference
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Gypsy/travellers
    • Barriers
    • Minority ethnic
    • Cultural competency
    • Interpretative phenomenological analysis


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