by Diane McDonald & Mary Hamill
The journal of the membership of the Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP) aims to share ideas amongst those within and around the psychotherapy community. The editorial board of Inside Out seeks to support diversity and welcomes dialogue in the context of its role within the organisation. As the IAHIP website states:
Our aspiration is to inform and inspire, open dialogue and widen debate. In giving readers space for their voices, we aim to facilitate diverse strands of thought and feeling that might open, develop, unfold and intertwine
It is within this spirit that the editorial board decided to carry out a survey of IAHIP members to assess current attitudes towards the journal. Our goal was to gain a deeper understanding of the following:
- How many people are reading the journal?
- How many of you have contributed written pieces?
- What are the factors that prevent you from contributing?
- What would motivate you to write for us?
- What aspects of the journal are most appealing?
- How might we improve the journal?
The aim was to gather information which would then help us to develop the future content and style of Inside Out. By reaching out to the membership, we hoped to gain creative and innovative suggestions that might inject new energy while also uncovering any stumbling blocks that could benefit from being addressed by the board.
We would like to thank all our members and readers of Inside Out who took the time to complete the survey. The response was both positive and constructive. Your feedback is vital in order for us to work towards producing a journal that meets the interests and expectations of our readership.
A cross-sectional survey research design was employed using an online questionnaire distributed through Survey Monkey. A number of factors can influence survey response rates: survey length, the amount of follow-up notifications, and the relevance of the topic to potential respondents (Sheehan, 2001). Our questionnaire was quick to complete (approximately 5 minutes) and was of particular relevance to invited participants because Inside Out is produced for – and by – IAHIP members.
The IAHIP office was asked to send out a bulletin inviting members to take part in the survey on February 27th 2018. This was followed by an advertisement in the Spring edition of Inside Out and a final reminder was emailed to all members on March 16th 2018. Data collection was completed on March 26th 2018.
As advised from the IAHIP office, the total membership of the organisation is N=1,424. Students, pre-accredited associates and fully accredited members were eligible to take part in the survey (N=957). The final sample for the current survey was N=207, giving us a response rate of 22%.
Of the eight questions put forth in the survey, six offered fixed-choice responses and two offered the opportunity to write open responses. Frequency analysis was used for fixed- choice responses. For the open responses (questions six and seven), there was a wide range of differing opinions and suggestions. As we were not working from a theoretical standpoint, we chose to use a thematic analysis, implementing an inductive approach. With the focus on data-driven coding, coding was performed manually with attention given to each data unit. From this analysis, themes were identified and a further review for any additional data in light of these themes was applied. A thematic map helped identify overarching themes and the relationship between the various sets of data (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
The survey sought to assess current attitudes of the membership towards Inside Out, its content, and about making contributions to the journal. Ideas were also sought in relation to improvements that could be made which would help to bring the journal more in line with your preferences. This section will present the results of each of the eight questions contained within the survey.
1. Do you read Inside Out? (Answered = 207)
A large majority (92%, n=191) of the survey respondents indicated that they read Inside Out
(see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Participants who read Inside Out
2. If ‘No’ to reading Inside Out please provide details. Tick all that apply (Answered = 30)
Slightly more participants (n=30) replied to this question than the 8% referenced above. This indicates that additional members may not always read every issue of Inside Out, either in part or in its entirety.
Of the fixed choices given, 17% (n=5) indicated that they do not have enough time to read the journal, with the same number again noting that they find the material too academic (see Figure 2). Twenty percent (n=6) of you feel the content is not relevant to your practice. Sixty seven percent (n=20) of members who do not read the journal noted reasons of their own, such as:
- The journal is not academic enough (n=8)
- A dislike of the journal’s writing style and overall structure (n=3)
- Reading it occasionally but not reading all the content or every issue (n=7)
- Never heard of the journal (n=2)
I don’t find the material sufficiently academic for a journal (P.44)
It is a bit old fashioned (P.22)
It is not sufficiently evidence based (P.9)
I would skim-read. A shorter online version might be more useful (P.17) I have never heard of it…sorry. (P.92)
Figure 2: Reasons for not reading Inside Out (n = 30)
3. Have you ever contributed an article/review/poem to Inside Out? (Answered = 205)
Just under one quarter (n=48) of you had contributed to Inside Out (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Participants’ contributions to Inside Out
4. If ‘No’ to having contributed please provide details (Answered = 158)
A variety of answers were given as to why many of you (76%) have not contributed to the journal, with lack of confidence (n=60) being a factor for more than one-third of the respondents. A similar number (n=54) were not sure if they had a relevant article for Inside Out, while a small number (n=9) did not realise that we welcome contributions from all (see Figure 4). One-third of respondents (n=53) added further reasons for not contributing, with lack of time being noted most frequently (40% of the additional reasons given):
- Lack of time (n=21)
- Not seeing the point of contributing (n=7)
- Thinking about contributing but not yet ready (n=5)
- Too many ‘rules’ about including academic content and formatting (n=5)
There are too many instructions about format, style, word count etc. It’s so complicated it puts me off trying (P.2)
I feel a review would be an option if attending a workshop, but otherwise I think that an article would need to be scientific and quite academic in order to be of any real benefit (P.199)
It has no real impact factor. Not worth my time. It’d be like writing for the village Gazette (P.201)
Thought about it from time to time. Would need to be inspired. (P.62)
Have thought about it but feel unsure as to the level of research required. (P.2)
I don’t think many therapists I know really read it. (P.37)
I had planned to do this after accreditation. (P. 11)
I’m only accredited 3 years and my personal ideas and experiences are still forming.
Fear sharing my early musings and being exposed. (P. 156)
Figure 4: Reasons participants do not contribute to Inside Out
5. What aspects of Inside Out appeal to you the most? (Answered = 206)
We were curious to know what your favourite sections within Inside Out are. Perhaps unsurprisingly an overwhelming majority of you (81%) favour the articles on psychotherapy, with only a very small number of respondents being drawn towards the journal’s Editorial or our reflective section, ‘The Space’ (see Table 1).
Table 1: Most favoured parts of Inside Out
6. What do you think would improve the journal? (Answered = 171)
One main overarching theme was identified in answer to this question: ‘Preferred content’ – a total of 68% of respondents remarked about the current and potential future content of the journal. Within this overarching theme, several sub-themes emerged. Sub-themes are useful for identifying differences within an overarching theme as was the case here. As can be seen in Figure 5, there were two dominant and opposing positions captured in the sub-themes: 23% of respondents showed a preference for articles written from personal and/or professional experience, while 26% expressed a preference for theoretical and research-based psychotherapeutic articles, incorporating case studies and book reviews.
Figure 5: Thematic map of participants’ suggestions for improving Inside Out
Broadening the topics for articles and drawing from personal and professional experience (P.1)
More direct invitations to submit articles on areas of practitioners’ interests, controversy in practice, contemporary struggles in practice (P.30)
On occasions more articles on the reality of being a practising psychotherapist (P.34)
Thirty six percent of respondents expressed a desire for more variety of both topics and contributors, with ethical issues, case studies and factual content suggested to achieve this:
How about a regular ‘therapist’s dilemma’ section where therapists would write in about a complicated ethical issue that they have come across? (P.14)
I’d be interested in reading more case studies and more reflective pieces rather than formal papers (P.24)
Minor themes that emerged included:
- Making the journal online and more interactive (8%)
- Implementing changes to the look of the journal by including more colour, art, photography, cartoons, etc. (6%)
- ‘Don’t know’ represented another 8% of respondents
Of note, we also received many positive comments about the journal’s current form:
I really like it and the diversity of articles from people with a variety of backgrounds. It’s hard to think of what I would change. If anything, it would be wishing it had a greater profile (P.16)
In general I think the journal is great and I thoroughly enjoy reading it (P.40)
I think it’s very good as it is. Contains material of Irish and international interest. Good length – not too long. Relevant book reviews and notices. Diversity of opinions and views. I’m happy with it as it is! (P.80)
7. What would motivate you to contribute an article to Inside Out? (Answered = 169)
Four main themes emerged as to what would encourage you to contribute to the journal:
- Having more confidence in writing skills (18%)
- Having more time (17%)
- Having passion about a topic (13%)
If the upcoming journal edition had a proposed theme (9%)
I know I would like to but don’t yet feel confident enough in my writing skills (P.85)
Time! And feeling I had something original-ish to say. I think having someone to talk possibilities through with would help perhaps (P.13)
If I was very passionate about something and confident in my understanding of it academically (P.154)
If an area of interest to me presented as a future themed edition (P.80)
8. Which format of Inside Out do you prefer? (Answered = 205)
The majority of respondents (see Figure 6) favoured reading the journal in its printed format (n=143). Of the remainder, it was an almost even split between respondents who prefer the online version (n=32) and those who have no particular preference (n=30).
Figure 6: Preferred format of Inside Out
As the response rate to the survey was 22%, we cannot fully know the views of those who did not engage in the survey. Nevertheless, it gives us some indication of the membership’s views. We were delighted to see that the journal is widely read amongst IAHIP students, pre- accredited associates and fully accredited members, particularly given the apparent time limitations that arise from being a psychotherapist. While time may allow for a leisurely read, it prevents many of you from putting pen to paper and contributing to the journal. Other challenges you face are a lack of confidence in your writing skills and perhaps needing to feel more passionate about a topic before submitting to Inside Out. If each edition had a particular theme, you might feel more inclined to get those creative juices flowing.
It appears we have a healthy tension between those of you who favour more academic content and those who would like more personal input and content relating to the profession itself. It is likely this reflects the diversity within the profession of those who favour the place of research and its relevance to what they do and those who may experience a disconnect between their life as a therapist and academia.
Case studies, ethical dilemmas, making the journal interactive, making changes to the ‘look’ of the journal, and more variety in terms of contributors and content were some of the ideas that emerged from the results of this survey. Now that the results are in, what needs to happen next?
Managing the demands of being a psychotherapist can often leave us short on time. It might be worth noting that publishing an article on psychotherapy counts as 15 hours towards the CPD requirements within the year that it is published. In addition, we can understand how readers may struggle in relation to confidence. This survey affords us the opportunity to remind you that contributors will be supported every step of the way in getting an article from its early stages to being publication-ready. Writing an article may feel overwhelming at first but the editorial team are more than ready to assist and support you in your endeavour.
We can provide feedback to your proposed ideas and/or topic and if you choose to proceed with a submission we will assign two editors to your article. These editors will also ensure that referencing is correct, so there is no need to let the formatting guidelines put you off. Editors will liaise directly with you, supporting you and suggesting ways to edit, rephrase, expand or condense in a manner that may improve the article. The final decision on all suggestions is, however, with the author and we will not change anything without prior approval. Some of you feel that you lack enough passion to write for the journal but most of us are passionate about some aspect of psychotherapy practice today, whether it be positive or negative. Why not give voice to your beliefs, particularly as we enter a new territory for our profession with so many changes on the horizon.
The idea of a ‘proposed theme’ for each edition has been previously considered by the editorial board. It is certainly an idea that appeals to us. However, in the absence of a strong level of contribution from our readers, we run the risk of not having enough articles to fill a themed issue. The answer to this problem lies entirely with you, the readers. One of the main challenges with each issue is to locate authors and articles for publication. All committee members make a point of welcoming and encouraging contributions from everyone, whether long-established members of IAHIP or not. We concur with many respondents who believe that more variety in terms of both articles and contributors would enrich the journal. If we have more contributors willing to ‘risk their significance’ and take the plunge by submitting a piece for consideration, we can then address the identified need for more diversity, more academic articles and more professional/personal experiences appearing in the journal. Also, the editorial board aims to respect and reflect both positions – those of you who like to read academic content and those of you who do not.
We are pleased to note that in recent editions we have met the request of those of you who want more colour, with photographs of authors appearing where consent is given and the introduction of artwork and pictures within articles. In addition, some of you expressed a wish for a more interactive forum, allowing readers to post comments and respond to articles, similar to online services provided by today’s mainstream newspapers. While cost and administration are factors to consider here, members may benefit from a reminder that there is an existing IAHIP members network available via LinkedIn. Perhaps this could be utilised as an interactive forum for those that wish to avail of it.
Finally, the editorial board has thoroughly enjoyed reading all the creative ideas of the membership. Implementing your ideas while maintaining the ethos of the journal will be foremost in our minds as we transition from 2018 to 2019.
Diane McDonald MIACP is also a pre-accredited associate member of IAHIP. She holds a Masters degree in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Diploma in Marriage and Relationship Counselling. She currently works for the Mental Health Commission and runs a private practice for couples and individuals in Lucan, Co. Dublin. Diane also works as an apprentice skills trainer at Turning Point Institute. She can be contacted on email@example.com or through her website www.dianemcdonald.ie.
Mary Hamill MIAHIP works in private practice in Dublin and is also a member of the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN) with a special interest in working with adult survivors of childhood loss. Mary can be contacted on 087 6317497 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101.
Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (n.d.). Our journal ethos. Retrieved 29 August 2018 from https://iahip.org/inside-out.
Sheehan, K. (2001). Email survey response rates: a review. Journal of Computer-Meditated Communication, 62(2). Retrieved 1 April 2017 from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol6/issue2/ sheehan.html.