Irish Educational Psychologists' Responses to Supporting Schools Following Critical Incidents: A Psychosocial Analysis
Hennessy, Richard Joseph
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis reports the findings of a research study conducted with educational psychologists (EPs) working in Ireland, exploring the effects on participants of supporting schools following Critical Incidents (CIs). The Study, which adopted a qualitative, psychosocial method (free association narrative interviewing: FANI) was comprised of 13 interviews with practising EPs. The chosen method draws on social psychology and psychoanalysis. The aims of the Study were to examine the effects of CI support work on participants with reference to the various factors at all levels of influence in their lives: intrapersonal, interpersonal and organisational. Moreover, the processes at play at each level and their interaction that led to the discerned effects on each participant were explored and reported as case studies. The case studies provide rich accounts of participants’ experiences of CI support work. A cross case, comparative analysis resulted in the emergence of four super ordinate themes: the emotional and physical effects of CI support work on EPs; CI practice issues that require clarification; training, supervision and supports; beliefs about schools’ responses to CIs. In terms of emotional and physical effects, some participants demonstrated effects of CI work associated with vicarious trauma (VT). Moreover, CIs have proved to be an unwelcome intrusion into their personal lives. Role ambiguity on the part of participants and lack of clarity around interagency collaboration were among the issues that caused stress and require clarification. Some EPs raised the potential for training, supervision, professional and organisational supports to mitigate the negative effects of CI support work. Observations and beliefs based on experience about how schools respond to CIs were also gleaned from the interviews. Conclusions regarding the effects of CI support work on EPs were reported followed by implications for EP practice and recommendations to safeguard the wellbeing of EPs in doing this work. The roles of EPs themselves, their colleagues and employers in using best practice strategies to prevent negative effects of CI support work were outlined and discussed.
Department of Education & Skills, Ireland
EdD in Educational Psychology