A Newman University graduate has become the inaugural recipient of a national counselling award. Beverley Spalding received the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body’s (CPCAB) Counselling Research Award for her exploration of black and Asian counsellors’ experiences of working with white clients. Some black and Asian participants who made up Ms Spalding’s research group reported reactions of shock and surprise from white clients meeting them for the first time.

Ms Spalding had herself experienced a similar encounter working with a new white client who said she felt uncomfortable seeing a black counsellor due to a traumatic experience from her past.

“She was visibly taken aback and said she didn’t know that I was black,” said Ms Spalding. “This is what prompted me to research the experiences of other black and Asian counsellors working with white clients.”

Ms Spalding, who conducted the research as part of her BA degree in counselling, found that although research had been done into the experiences of white counsellors working with black and Asian clients, there was no research looking at the experiences of black and Asian counsellors working with white clients.

“I found that similar pieces of research that had been done previously were American, there wasn’t anything British at all,” said Ms Spalding.

“I think it is an important area and I hope that there will be more research in the future to help institutions create better guidance for trainees.”

Ms Spalding said that more training was required to prepare black and Asian counsellors for the kinds of reactions they may encounter from white clients and to help black and Asian counsellors better understand their own feelings when working with white clients.

“Some highly qualified counsellors said they felt they had to prove themselves more when working with white clients,” said Ms Spalding.

“But was this feeling coming from them or the clients? Training could play a part in helping black and Asian counsellors reflect on their identity and difference, so preparing them for what they may experience when dealing with white clients.”

The aim of the CPCAB Counselling Research Award is to assist with the dissemination of research that has important implications for counselling training or counselling practice. Through highlighting significant research, documenting it on video and disseminating it for free online, the aim is to make the research more accessible to all counselling trainees and practitioners.

All research submitted to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s (BACP) annual research conference was eligible for the award and Ms Spalding’s research was judged on the importance of its findings for counselling training and practice.

The award is in the form of a video documenting the research, which is available to watch for free online at www.cpcab.co.uk/researchaward/.

Anthony Crouch, chief executive at CPCAB, said: “This award is of great importance and we hope to see many worthy winners following in Beverley’s footsteps in the future.”