Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Research Clinic Progress & Advanced Research Training

Entry for 16 December 2007:

It has been a busy several weeks. Now, we’re on our way back to the US for three weeks holiday and to see our families, and I certainly feel that I’ve earned a break. (Actually, the general consensus of friends, family & colleagues is that I’m working too hard and need to cut back on something.)

Research Clinic. The research clinic is now operational, more than 20 potential clients have contacted us, and this past week the first three clients began therapy, two in the social anxiety and one in the practice-based research protocol (two others have been assigned to therapists and are awaiting first sessions). Three student counsellors have joined us so far and will be seeing clients in the new year as part of their training experience. We have been designing systems for tracking clients, scheduling rooms, communicating with security about building opening times, and supervising both research and therapy. I have been able to draw on my long experience running my research clinic at the University of Toledo, but there is less infrastructure in place here, and so we have had to design new processes beyond what I am familiar with. The research clinic’s demands are immediate and pressing, and thus need to be prioritized over most other demands, such as writing. Diane has been helping with phone screenings and intake/diagnostic interviewing, which has been a great help to me and Brian, but even so we have been run ragged. I think we are hoping that two or three weeks’ breathing space will enable us to finish sorting out the basic arrangements and to get caught up on our sleep. However, what is already becoming clear is how having a working research clinic provides a source of energy and excitement, and a focus for further developments.

Advanced Research Training in Qualitative Methods. In addition to the conference presentations of November (discussed in previous entries), I’ve also had a pretty full complement of teaching activities, including a new 2-day intensive Advanced Research Training in qualitative research last weekend, partly co-taught with John McLeod. There were 10 participants, including all of our current PhD students and some others. Almost all had previous experience doing qualitative research, which enabled us to start at a fairly high level. This was a new and refreshing experience, and we had many productive and useful discussions. In addition to the usual lectures on the methods and demonstrations of analytic practices (such as preparing the text for analysis), John and I developed a format of asking participants to take a couple minutes to write down “the questions that you will be sorry you didn’t ask after we are done”. The participants’ questions were excellent and served to generate productive discussions of practical topics such as making time in one’s life for working on research and how to support wider scientific acceptance of qualitative research.

A good esprit de corps developed among the participants, who collected each others’ email addresses and have now set up an email list for exchanging information, which John has been using to distribute particularly nice examples of qualitative research as a follow up on the workshop. And so we have begun to develop a third, advanced/doctoral, level in the system we are setting up for research training, to complement the diploma-level practice-based research training and the masters-level intermediate research training. Each of these groups of students has particular needs and so research training needs to be carefully targeted in content and level of material provided.

This experience in turn is helping us redesign the taught input for the MSc course for the next intake of students in September. For example, we are asking the PhD research students if they would like to help out with the series of intensive research days for we plan to offer next autumn, and also if they’d like to help supervision the MSc students, in a kind of pyramid model. This makes all kinds of sense, because it also helps prepare the PhD students for academic positions.

And the research clinic in turn opens up new possibilities for the research students to carry out their research, if we go to the trouble to make sure it all works together!

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