Winner 2017

Outstanding Development Award Winner 2017

Heather Drobinska

Heather was our 2017 Student Award winner because her academic and personal/professional development was so outstanding over the two years of her L5 HPD Counsellor Training Course. Heather worked hard and produced academic work of a high standard but she also processed difficult experiences and trauma to emerge as a qualified professional. Only a year after qualifying Heather took the offer of full-time work as a counselor – a position she is still in (to date: 19/11/18).

Well done Heather! Below is a sample of her excellent work – presented with others at the bacp National Research Conference May 2017


Presenter(s): Chisom Nwankwo, Heather Drobinska

Other Authors: Riana Lewis, Hannah Commodore

Professional Role: Higher Professional Diploma, 2nd Year Students.

Institution/Affiliation: Lewisham Counselling and Counsellor Training Association. (LC&CTA)

Contact details: Chris Brown, Broadway House, 15-16 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PA

Email: c/o

Abstract type: Poster Presentation

Five Keywords: Religion/Spirituality, Thematic Analysis, Mental-Health, Impact.

Title of presentation: Counsellors’ experiences of working with clients diagnosed with a mental health disorder who bring religion/spirituality into the therapeutic space.

Aim/PurposeTo investigate and explore the experiences of counsellors working with clients diagnosed with mental health disorders and the impact religion/spirituality may or may not have on the therapeutic process.

Design/MethodologyWe interviewed counsellors, extending various modalities, with experiences of working with clients’ diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Interviews were semi-structured and audio taped, then transcribed. Thematic analysis informed by the Principals of Phenomenology (Moustakas, 1994) was used to analyse our data; identifying common themes and highlighting anomalies, Such methodology allowed us to descriptively detail participants’ subjective and phenomenological experiences of working with this client group; We followed the BACP Ethical Guidelines for Researching Counselling and Psychotherapy (Bond, 2010).

Results/Findings: Our findings indicate that clients’ spirituality and/or religious beliefs brought by the client into the therapeutic space can be an aid to the counselling process; and religious texts appear helpful to some clients in relation to their personal understanding of psychosis and mental illness. Spirituality and religion can be reassuring/helpful to such clients. This appears especially true if a client is in recovery from an addictive illness.

Conversely, clients’ spiritual/religious viewpoints/values can hinder the therapeutic process on an existential level; some clients can spiritualise everything in terms of Godly or demonic processes at work in their lives; in turn this can block a clients’ progress toward making positive day-to-day life enhancing changes and/or their acceptance of diagnosis.

Research Limitations: Our findings arise from a small respondent sample of counsellors therefore; our results may be unique to the relatively few counsellors who were included in our study. The qualitative method we used may mean our findings cannot be generalised to a wider population of counsellors in other settings (J. McLeod, 2003).

Conclusions/Implications: Our findings indicate that it may be important for counsellors to be aware that clients who are in recovery from an addictive illness highly benefit from having and/or developing spiritual beliefs; a similar conclusion draw by Williams (2008). It seems clients who spiritualise everything are best supported by counsellors who help such clients to find spiritual/religious meaning in any mental health diagnosis and/or treatment.


  • Bond & Griffin G. et al. (2010) Ethical framework for good practice in counselling & psychotherapy. Lutterworth: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
  • McLeod,J. (2003) Doing Counselling Research. Available at (Downloaded: 11 January 2015).
  • Moustakas, C. E. (1994) Phenomenological Research Methods. United states of America, Sage Publications Inc
  • Williams, Martin, (2008), ‘What role does spirituality play in the therapeutic setting as an agent in the recovery from addiction?, Poster Presentation @ BACP Research Conference 2008

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