Life space mapping
: developing a visual method for investigating the outcomes of counselling and psychotherapy from the client's frame of reference

  • Brian Rodgers

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: This thesis presents an investigation into the development of a new visual method for examining the outcomes of counselling and psychotherapy. The project is contextualised through a critical review of theory and research into the nature of assessment techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy.

Research method: The empirical study draws on the concept of research as bricolage within a social constructionist epistemology to explore participants’ experiences of a multi-method approach to assessing the outcomes of therapy. In particular, a visual, creative approach implemented in terms of ‘Life Space Mapping’ was used to collaboratively explore the changes from therapy of 17 participants within a volunteer counselling service. This approach was complemented by the use of a standardised outcome questionnaire in the form of the CORE-OM. Interviews were conducted at pre-therapy, post-therapy and follow-up involving the construction of the LSM, completion of the CORE-OM, reflection on any change, and the participants’ experience of using each method for reflecting on change. Strategies for data analysis included the use of a case study approach, presentation of a montage of visual material, thematic analysis of interview transcripts, and benchmarking of quantitative results against established norms.

Findings: The results of the study indicate that Life Space Mapping was able to access rich, in-depth narratives of change that revealed a different ‘picture’ of outcome than the traditional quantitative approach. Further, the study was able to reveal details of participants’ experience of both methods. Both the LSM and CORE-OM were found to offer an opportunity to reflect on change, and were experienced as potentially growthful and therapeutic when used in a collaborative fashion. However, significant issues were also discovered regarding participants idiosyncratic responses to the CORE-OM.

Conclusions: The study demonstrates that the LSM provides a powerful adjunct to traditional approaches to outcome assessment which facilitates clients’ reflections on change in terms of
their own ‘life’ and their own ‘space’. Further, it highlights the value of offering outcome data back to the clients themselves such that they can make use of it for their own growth processes. Additionally, the study calls into question the solidity of the existing evidence base within counselling and psychotherapy in terms of the underling data being an accurate representation of client’s actual experiences, and makes the case for more ‘client centric’ approaches to outcomes research.
Date of AwardJan 2010
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn McLeod (Supervisor) & Mick Cooper (Supervisor)

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