Supporting Mental Health Research

Some of our Trainee Counsellors are embarking on Doctorate level qualifications that provide the opportunity for them to contribute to the valuable field of mental health research.
On this page you will find invitations to participate in current research activity as well as any published findings that Help Counselling Trainees have completed.

Current Research Projects 

There are not currently seeking research participants.

Previous Research Projects 

More details are provided below. 

Research Project Title: An Interpretive Phenomenological Study Exploring In Session Body Experiences of Sexually Assaulted Women in Therapy

NAME OF RESEARCHER: Catherine Keenan (Counselling Psychologist in Training) 
NAME OF COURSE & INSTITUTION: Doctorate in Counselling Psychology (DPsych), Regent’s University London

What is the purpose of this study? 

This study aims to understand: how do adult women who have experienced sexual assault experience their body during talking therapy sessions? 

Catherine Keenan (researcher) is a final year student at Regent’s University London studying a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. This research forms part of the requirement for the completion of her DPsych qualification. The study has been reviewed and approved by Regent’s University London DPsych Research Ethics Committee to ensure it adheres to high codes of ethical conduct. This approval involves scrutiny of all ethical aspects of the study including risk and overall quality. This study also adheres to the British Psychological Society’s ‘Code of Conduct’ (2018) and ‘Code of Human Research Ethics’ (2021).  

It is hoped that the findings of this study will be published and help practitioners work more effectively with adult women who have experienced sexual assault. 

Help Counselling has given permission for recruitment to take place. 

If you are interested in participating in this study or would like further information, please read through the information provided on this page carefully and contact us using this form: Research Study Participation Enquiry Form 

Who can take part in the study and selection rationale 

We are inviting women with experience of sexual assault after the age of 18 as women experience sexual assault at a higher rate than men and most previous studies have only focused on sexual assault in childhood, despite its prevalence during adulthood. Women with at least three months of talking therapy experience are being recruited to ensure participants have enough therapy experience to discuss it in detail. 

Participants with the following experience will not be recruited: 

  • Preoccupation with how one’s body looks before sexual assault
  • Disordered eating before sexual assault 
  • Sexual assault before the age of 18 
  • Body-oriented psychotherapy (e.g. somatic therapy, sensorimotor therapy) 

Women without a history of a preoccupation with how one’s body looks or disordered eating pre-sexual assault are not being recruited as these experiences can significantly affect one’s relationship with one’s body. This is the same reason for not recruiting individuals with experience of body-oriented psychotherapy and only cis-gender women.  

Please note that interviews will take place after you have finished your current therapy to avoid participation affecting your current therapy. 


Cis-gender: An individual whose gender identity aligns with their birth-assigned gender 

Sexual assault: While a working definition of sexual assault is offered for clarity, the subjectivity of sexual assault is acknowledged. Therefore, please feel free to self-define your experience in relation to the following definition. 
A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced against their will (NHS, 2018). 

Body-oriented psychotherapy: This is a psychotherapeutic way of working in which the body plays a large role in healing from traumatic experiences. Body-oriented psychotherapy might involve dance/movement, breathwork or contact bodywork and includes somatic psychotherapy, sensorimotor therapy, Hakomi, core energetics and bioenergetic analysis. 

Answers to important questions you may have about this research study 

Do I have to take part in this study? 

You do not have to take part in this study and can withdraw at any time until 2 weeks after the interview date by sending the withdrawal letter to any of the contact details provided. This will mean all data concerning you, including personal communications and transcripts, is securely destroyed and you will not be contacted again. This data will be destroyed by me within 48 hours of receipt of the withdrawal letter and will be confirmed with you via email. You are not required to give a reason for withdrawal and choosing not to participate or to withdraw will not affect your future relationships with Help Counselling.  

What happens if I take part in the study? 

If you would like to participate in this study, you will be invited you to a telephone call screening where we will explore if you meet the necessary criteria for participation. At the start of this screening, a distress protocol will be filled, and you will be debriefed at the end to ensure you feel supported. Following this, we will confirm an interview time/date and you will receive secure Zoom video link. You will then take part in an audio-recorded individual online interview via the video-conferencing platform Zoom about the experience of your body during your talking therapy sessions. If you have any questions or concerns about using Zoom, these can be discussed. 

This interview will be with Catherine. Before the interview begins, she will invite you to fill, sign and return a Participant Consent Sheet using a secure digital signing website which will be automatically emailed to her. The interview will take around one hour. The interview will be audio-recorded using a password-protected digital Dictaphone to ensure data security. You may take a break at any time or choose not to answer certain questions. Following the interview, you will be debriefed. During this debrief Catherine will invite you to ask any questions, seek clarification, voice any concerns you may have and will ask about your experience of participating in this study. Catherine will give you sufficient time to ensure you feel supported and will offer you contact details and helplines. What you talk about during the interview is confidential and Catherine will not reveal identifiable details of your interview to others, including Help Counselling. In the event you tell her of an immediate risk of suicide (e.g. you plan to kill yourself immediately after the interview), Catherine will need to contact 999 and your GP. If you tell Catherine of a non-immediate risk of suicide, she will need to contact your GP. 

What are the possible risks/benefits of taking part? 

Participating in this study might be upsetting due to the sensitive nature of sexual assault however a full debrief and distress protocol is in place to support you. If you feel distressed at any point during the interview you may ask for the interview to be paused or stopped. Some people who have experienced sexual assault report benefitting from study participation by feeling helpful and empowered, but there may be no direct benefit to you. The dissemination of the study’s results will be of wider benefit to people who have experienced sexual assault and access talking therapy. 

How will my details be kept? 

All data will be digitised and treated in accordance with the Data Protection Act (2018). All data concerning you, except for your Participant Consent Sheet, audio recording and personal communication with Catherine, will be anonymised. File names will contain no identifying information. Audio recordings will made on a password-protected Dictaphone, then uploaded onto and stored securely on a password-protected computer that only Catherine will have authorised access to. Following this, the original audio recording on the Dictaphone will be destroyed. Any personal communication you have with Catherine will be over email and delivered to her password-protected university email account which is also only accessed by Catherine via a password-protected computer.  

The interview recording will be transcribed solely by Catherine rather than outsourced, to ensure data security and confidentiality. During transcription, all identifying details will be removed or modified to ensure anonymity. All anonymised transcripts will be kept on a secure password-protected computer separately from audio-recordings which Catherine has authorised access to. Direct, anonymised quotations will be taken from transcripts and included in the write-up and potential publication of this research. Catherine will securely destroy all data one year following the awarding of the doctorate. This date has been selected as it gives adequate time to finish the research project and complete publication processes. This also aligns with GDPR (2018) policies on not retaining data longer than necessary. 

If you are interested in participating or would like any further information, please contact us using this form: Research Study Participation Enquiry Form