Qualitative research methods

Becoming a qualitative researcher influenced my work as a psychotherapist, making me more grounded and systematic in building up my clinical hypotheses, and less ‘top down’ in my interpretations. Equally, my skills and interests as a researcher were influenced by my psychotherapy experience and theories. I have since developed and given a graduate level course at Webster University for counseling students on qualitative methods, with the epistemological, theoretical and experiential interface of psychotherapy and qualitative methods as a central theme. The students were enthusiastic about this course and I think it is an incredibly useful way of teaching them to be clinician-researchers, and to think more critically about all of the work they do, whether clinical or research.

I am particularly excited about using and teaching Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) which you can read about here There is so much to be said about IPA, all of it is said on that site, plus there is a listing of literature and textbooks to learn about doing IPA.  I am the Netherlands country coordinator for IPA practitioners here, and New members are welcome.

Current research on parenthood

In addition to supervising and collaborating on various student and colleagues’ research projects,  I am currently analyzing pilot interviews and planning an international study on the impact of intentional community on the experience of being a parent. We know that social network is important for parents. We don’t know so much about what makes the one parent able to avail themselves of the network, and the other feel unable to do so, for example because of feelings of shame. But we also don’t know what it is like for parents when a whole new kind of community is set up, with intention–whether that be a shared ideology, vision, or lifestyle–complete with new values and norms. What I have seen in the exploratory phase of this project is that this can have a dramatic impact on parenthood, and one which would be useful to understand better if we want to understand what it is that parents need in the context of mainstream society too–a question about which much curiosity and concern exists! More on this project on a separate page.

Doctoral research on sexuality

Prior to this my main investigation to date has been my PhD research, a qualitative study on the experience of sexual role play games involving power exchange, from a psychodynamic perspective, using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). In my PhD research, I took my years of experience with the effects of child abuse into a new direction, investigating how seemingly maladaptive sexual role play games could in fact function as highly adaptive means to re-visit early parenting experiences and re-work old hurts, or at the very least demonstrate yet another interesting example of the surprising and unexpected ways in which human resilience operates and how lived experience often defies the constraining and often moralizing boundaries of normative theories of human development. The following is a summary of the Phd, as well as an article based on one of the analytic chapters (single case study)

PhD summary: A-psychological-exploration-of-kinky-sex

The Psychodynamics of Consensual Sadomasochistic and Dominant- Submissive Sexual Games


Other research projects: Memory work and IPA studies

After finishing the PhD, I was involved in two research projects. One of them was an IPA study of Juvenile Huntington’s disease, as part of a European study to look at the experience of parents whose children are afflicted with this disease.

The other project was an international collaboration with a group of female colleagues exploring a range of epistemological and methodological issues using Haug’s Memory Work technique. This led to a presentation and a publication, and along the way, lots of lively discussions about what is a ‘memory’, what is real versus what is constructed, and other such issues. We thought we could bridge geographic distances and keep our group going with modern ICT but it was not possible in the end. We published a paper about our experiences in this journal on qualitative research: Memory work.2012