About Research

  • Quote Research is a journey, a metaphorical going out on a voyage of exploration, like Odysseus or Jason in Greek mythology, or Darwin’s voyage of discovery on the Beagle. This voyage begins with optimism and excitement but often veers toward danger, risk, and disappointment […] Sometimes, we make it home with a research project, and sometimes it fails and is never heard from again, buried at the back of a filing cabinet. But generally, if we persist, we will return safely with a story or two to tell about the adventure.”
    – Chris Barker, Nancy Pistrang, and Robert Elliott (2016, p.247)

  • Call for collaborators

    I am keen to build on my existing research through collaboration with other like-minded researchers in my field. If you would like to develop a research study with me, please get in touch.

  • My approach to research

    I am interested in research that allows both my Counsellor self (who thrives on experience-near perspectives) and Researcher self (who also appreciates the contribution and limitations of experience-far perspectives) to be fully involved in the process. As a result, my approach to research could be described as methodological pluralism (e.g. Barker, Pistrang & Elliott, 2016): no single method is best, as all have relative strengths and limitations, and together can provide different perspectives as part of a whole investigation.

  • My research interests: congruent functioning, the outcome of person-centred therapy; development of the Strathclyde Inventory; methodological innovation in measure development; methodological innovation in case study research

    My PhD study (Stephen, 2020) involved measure development with a twist. The Strathclyde Inventory (Freire, 2007), a brief self-report instrument designed to measure congruent functioning (i.e., the interrelated concepts of the fully functioning person, and congruence; Rogers, 1959). I used the Strathclyde Counselling & Psychotherapy Research Clinic’s archive of data collected using the Strathclyde Inventory to explore its validity for use as a measure of outcome in person-centred therapy. I applied modern test methods to investigate evidence of its internal structure, reliability/precision, convergence with related instruments, and sensitivity to change. However, I extended the source of evidence from abstract scores to consider clients actual experiences in therapy by carrying out a meta-synthesis of a series of eight systematic case studies (HSCED; Elliott, 2014) that analysed the ‘rich case records’ of four clients whose scores on the Strathclyde Inventory suggested reliable ‘improvement’ in their congruent functioning by the end of therapy, and four clients whose post-therapy scores implied ‘deterioration’. This process highlighted similarities and differences within and between these two groups of clients, resulting in the identification of an apparent developmental pathway for congruent functioning with self-acceptance as a pivot point. In addition, I identified implications for practice that considered how doubts, discomfort and disruption in the therapeutic process can impact on a client’s development of congruent functioning.

  • An ongoing longitudinal study to map the development of the person-centred approach in Scotland

    In addition to these research interests, I have a long-term commitment to map the development of the person-centred approach in Scotland, with existing datasets collected in 2006 and 2015 in association with PCT Scotland.

  • My publications

    Please contact me if you would like more information about my publications and conference papers.


    Stephen, S. (2020). The Strathclyde Inventory as a Measure of Outcome in Person-Centred Therapy. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Strathclyde.


    Stephen, S. (Ed). (2014). Case Studies [Special Issue]. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 13(2).


    Stephen, S. (2014). Introduction to the Special Issue on Case Studies. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 13, 73-74.


    Stephen, S. & Elliott, R. (2011). Developing the adjudicated case study method. Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 7, 230-241.


    Stephen, S., Elliott, R., & Macleod, R. (2011). Person-centred therapy with a client experiencing social anxiety difficulties: A hermeneutic single case efficacy design. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 11, 55-66.


    *Cornforth, S. & Lambers, E. (2010). The Person-Centered Approach in Scotland: A Report. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 9, 25-36

  • Conference papers

    Stephen, S., Bell, L., Kahn, M., Love, R., Mackintosh, H., Martin, M., Moran, R., Price, E. & Whitehead, B. (2019a). Deterioration as an outcome of therapy: A systematic case study group investigation. Symposium presented at the BACP Research Conference, Belfast, UK.


    Stephen, S., Bell, L., Kahn, M., Love, R., Mackintosh, H., Martin, M., Moran, R., Price, E. & Whitehead, B. (2019b). What features of therapy may contribute to a client’s deterioration? Meta-synthesis of a systematic case study series. Paper presented at the BACP Research Conference, Belfast, UK.


    Stephen, S. & Elliott, R. (2018). Investigating patterns of change in client congruence during person-centered therapy. Paper presented at 13th PCE Conference, Vienna, Austria.


    Stephen, S. & Elliott, R. (2017). The Strathclyde Inventory: Measuring congruence as an outcome of therapy. Paper presented at the BACP Research Conference, Chester, UK.


    Stephen, S. (2016). The Strathclyde Inventory: Next Steps in the Development of a Person-Centered Outcome Measure. Paper presented at 12th PCE Conference, New York City, U.S.A.


    Elliott, R., Stephen, S., Cheng, L. Miller-Cole, K., Eyre, A., Riddell, E., & Hagman, V. (2016). The Personal Questionnaire Classification Project: Developing a person-centered system to categorize client datasets according to individualized statements of presenting problems. Paper presented at 12th PCE Conference, New York City, U.S.A.


    Traynor, V., Stephen, S. Barkus, E., Pavlik, H., Yu, P. Qian, S., Li, M., & Carrigan, N. (2016) Developing a Person-Centered Fear and Dementia (FaDe) Assessment Tool for Individuals Living with a Dementia. Paper presented at 12th PCE Conference, New York City, U.S.A.


    Stephen, S. & Cowie, C. (2016). The person-centred approach in Scotland: Has it grown? Paper presented at the 2nd PCE Europe Symposium, Lausanne, Switzerland.


    Stephen, S., Elliott, R., Freire, E.S., Williams, C., Morrison, J., McConnachie, A., & Cooper, M. (2015). Client experiences of post-treatment change and helpful and hindering aspects of low intensity CBT and person-centred counselling. Paper presented at the 21st BACP Research Conference, Nottingham, UK.


    Stephen, S. & MacLeod, R. (2013). PCE therapy for social anxiety: A qualitative metasynthesis of seven Hermeneutic Single Case Efficacy Design (HSCED) studies. Paper presented at the meeting of the UK chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Oxford, UK.


    Stephen, S., Elliott, R., & Rodgers, B. (2011). Person-Centered & Experiential Approaches to Social Anxiety: Initial outcome results. Paper presented at the World Congress for Psychotherapy, Sydney, Australia.


    *Cornforth, S., Freire, E.S., & Macleod, R. (2010). Evaluating person-centred therapy with a client experiencing social anxiety difficulties using a single-case efficacy design. Paper presented at the 9th PCE Conference, Rome, Italy.


    *Cornforth, S. & Freire, E. (2009). Did the client change? Person-centred therapy with a client experiencing social anxiety difficulties. Paper presented at the BACP Research Conference, Portsmouth, UK.


    * I changed my surname from Cornforth to Stephen in November 2010.


  • References

    Barker, C., Pistrang, N., & Elliott, R. (2016). Research Methods in Clinical Psychology. Wiley Blackwell.
    Elliott, R. (2014). Hermeneutic Single-Case Efficacy Design: An Overview. In K.J.Schneider, J.F. Fraser & J.F.T. Bugental (Eds.), Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading Edges in Theory, Practice & Research (2nd Ed.) (pp. 351-360). Sage.
    Freire, E. S. (2007). The Strathclyde Inventory: A psychotherapy outcome measure based on the person-centred theory of change. Unpublished MSc dissertation, University of Strathclyde.
    Rogers, C.R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework. In S. Koch (Ed.) Psychology: A Study of a Science, Volume 3, Formulations of the Person and the Social Context (pp.184-256). McGraw-Hill. .

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