DPsych student wins award at the International Meaning Conference

Congratulations to fourth year DPsych student, Ute Liersch, who won the Student-Practitioner Award at the International Meaning Conference (IMEC) 2019.

Aiming to connect people from varying disciplines  to learn from each other’s theoretical and practical wisdom, the conference was held in London from July 12-14.

Liersch 's presentation, based on her doctoral research, was entitled ‘The meanings of chronic pain acceptance’.

Chronic pain management programmes are a widespread and valuable form of group therapy within the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, said Dr Isabel Henton, Head of Regent’s DPsych Counselling Psychology programme.

‘One core aim of these programmes is to help people work towards acceptance of their chronic pain condition. Ute's research explores understandings of the idea of "acceptance" among people who have dropped out of the programme.

‘Research carried out among people who drop out of therapy is relatively rare compared to research among people who successfully complete therapy and gain some benefit from it, yet it is perhaps one of the most valuable forms of therapy research. 

‘Such studies can help practitioners better understand what people (who may not let them know otherwise) think and feel when therapy doesn't work well for them. This feedback can lead directly to local or strategic improvements in practice and the provision of services to those in need of them.’

Liersch’s research required ethical approval from the NHS research ethics committee (REC). At first, her proposal was rejected, as the committee was reluctant to let Liersch work with people who disengage from treatment. 

‘Yet, stimulated through Regent's DPsych programme I engaged with questioning norms, implicit meanings and power in-balances. My director of studies, Dr Russel Ayling, and my tutor, Dr Isabel Henton, supported this decision – for which I am very grateful. Eventually persistence paid off and I was able to analyse chronic pain acceptance based on data provided by those who did not engage with acceptance-based treatments in the NHS. The findings are, to say the least, surprising.’ 

Liersch was awarded the IMEC Student-Practitioner Award for working with a group of participants who are not often engaged in clinics or with research. She was also given the award because data can change clinical routines, as of now.  

‘I am grateful to the IMEC scientific committee members, Professor Jonathan Smith and Dr Joel Vos, for being given this honour. I was able to discuss the findings with other colleagues and with pain-bearers. Yet for me, this is a start only. I am positive that there are more publications and talks to come in the near future. I am excited that my article for The Psychologist has now been accepted and I hope that this will help to take this research into the second phase.’

To learn more about Liersch’s work on the NHS ethics process, this page provides a bird’s eye view to understand its chronology.