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On being a university student in therapy: Exploring the process of therapy and its impact on the process of learning

Ramsey-Wade, Christine



Historically, the client’s experience of therapy has not featured centrally in psychological research. Studies of student mental health share this past bias towards the practitioner’s viewpoint. While some research have been carried out into the process and outcome of therapy within some university counselling services, more is needed. This project aims to explore further the experience of undergoing therapy, as well as the experience of undergoing therapy and a university degree at the same time. Specifically, this study will seek to discover students’ views on what impact, if any, undergoing therapy while studying has on their efforts to adequately complete their degree. In order to fully and accurately capture the student’s experiences, a qualitative, phenomenological research design has been employed. Following a pilot that tested the interview schedule and method, six participants with experience of undergoing therapy while studying for a university degree were recruited by letter for semi-structured interviews. The interview material was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
The findings are conveyed in a narrative style in order to communicate in some depth and detail a few of the ways in which student clients can experience their therapy. This includes their pre-counselling experiences, such as driving factors for seeking support and experiences of waiting lists, their experiences of change processes and potential personal and academic effects of psychological therapy, as well as post-counselling events such as the experience of taking part in a research project. The findings also illustrate how student clients’ experiences of therapy can change over time. These results broadly correspond to trends in the research literature showing that clients experience factors that are common or non-specific to any particular theoretical orientation as key to change. Possible implications for managers of university counselling services, practitioners, and students and their families are discussed.


Ramsey-Wade, C. On being a university student in therapy: Exploring the process of therapy and its impact on the process of learning. (Dissertation). Regent’s College, as validated by City University, London. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Dissertation
Keywords IPA, client experience, university students, theories of change, counselling
Public URL
Award Date Aug 1, 2005