Psychotherapeutic and Counselling Psychology

Jill Wilkinson, together with Elizabeth Campbell, was a major mover in the development of the Doctorate in Psychotherapeutic and Counselling Psychology at Surrey.

Jill was one of the founder members of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Division of Counselling Psychology and both Jill and Elizabeth sat on the Board of Examiners responsible for developing the new qualifications and training routes to Division membership and BPS chartering and they were very much involved in the decision by the BPS to set the standard for the professional qualification in counselling psychology at doctorate level (as it was for Clinical Psychology). Although there were several masters level courses in Counselling Psychology, the Surrey programme, which Jill led many years, was not only the first Practitioner Doctorate in Counselling Psychology in the UK but the first course to be accredited by the BPS as leading to membership of the Division of Counselling Psychology and Chartered Psychologist status.

The Surrey course structure was inspired by the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with a similar strong emphasis on academic standards and professional and ethical practice and a distinct emphasis on the development of a counselling psychology identity. Trainees spend two full days per week training on campus, two days on placement and, crucially, one day on their doctoral research. From the start, the course, without the constraints of workforce planning, welcomed trainees from many different backgrounds and from a wide range of ages with trainees often bringing to the course a wealth of experience and diversity. This made for an exciting, stimulating and rich environment in which to teach and to learn. From the beginning, the emphasis was on a relational understanding of human distress that focused on understanding subjective experience and a non pathologising attitude. Trainees immersed themselves in gaining clinical experience characterised by in depth work with clients, spending at least a year, sometimes longer on a particular clinical placement that was in line with the psychotherapeutic modality they were being taught at the university. This match of theory and practice provided trainees the opportunity to gain an in depth and critical understanding of theory and its relation to clinical practice under supervision. Trainees have also always been encouraged, through their placements and research, to pursue particular interests in relation to client populations, topics or contexts of practice.

Crucial to the course’s success was the original strong course team with Ruth Jordan joining the Department as Placement Tutor, Adrian Coyle as Research Tutor, and Kaye Hambledon and Marion Steed working on the administration side.  Adrian Coyle had gained his PhD in the department, supervised by Glynis Breakwell.

While the curriculum, its teaching and the training and assessment procedures have changed over the years with new requirements from professional bodies and market forces, the original foundations and basic structure have proved enduring and successful. The percentage of trainees publishing is the highest amongst courses in counselling psychology in the country, thanks to the expertise and mentoring by Adrian Coyle and then Dora Brown, as well as the many psychology staff that have supervised counselling psychology trainees’ research.

Jill is still a Visiting Professor in the School of Psychology, and now works mainly in independent practice.  She also sits on a number of professional committees and has the distinction of being a Trustee of the BPS, winning an award in 2013 from the Association of Psychological Therapies for her contribution to European Counselling Psychology. In 2000 Martin Milton took on the role of co-director of the course jointly with Adrian Coyle and then was sole director until 2006 and subsequently went on to become Professor in Counselling Psychology and Programme Director for the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at Regents University, London.  Mention should also be made of the fact that Martin is a talented wildlife photographer, who contributed to a photographic exhibition held in the Department in 2009.  Riccardo Draghi-Lorenz took over from him as Programme Director and led the training until 2014 when Elena Manafi, a graduate from the course, who had previously been the director of the Doctoral course in Counselling Psychology at Regent’s University and the chair of the counselling psychology training committee (TCCP, BPS) for the past 5 years, took over the role of programme Director. In 2015 and building on the original foundations and basic structure of the training, she implemented the new standards of the Division of Counselling Psychology and continued to strengthen the philosophical foundations of the course and its pluralistic attitude to theory, research, and practice. Together with a team comprised of counselling psychologists and psychotherapists, she has further enhanced the training’s dedication to a holistic attitude that integrates theory, practice, research, and personal and professional development and to the development of professionals who are passionate for the philosophical and epistemological foundations of the Reflective Scientist Practitioner and who believe in the importance of making a significant contribution to the field of applied psychology. In line with recent developments, the programme embraces an outward looking attitude that espouses an interdisciplinary perspective to theory and practice and emphasises the importance of diversity, social justice, and an overall appreciation of the historical, socio-political, economic, and cultural contexts within which experience is shaped and lived.

There are now 13 doctoral courses in the country but the Surrey programme is still considered amongst the best, with many of its graduates occupying leading positions in other universities, the NHS and BPS. Its significant contributions to practice based research is reflected on trainees’ research that promotes well-being and emphasises the importance of subjective and intersubjective experience as well as promotions of dialogical and collaborative clinical practice that respects the Otherness of the Other.