Rewarding research: Using my ‘self’, psychotherapeutic perspectives and reflection in social science and health research in Zambia
Following a long career in the NHS in Scotland as an Art Psychotherapist and leading several projects training mental health staff in Ghana and Zambia, I embarked on an MSc in Africa and International development at the University of Edinburgh.
My MSc incorporated a work-based placement at ZAMBART in Zambia where I conducted a secondary analysis of case studies of households caring for patients with TB /HIV – from a mental health perspective. This gave me the opportunity to include my ‘self’ and my professional knowledge and stance as elements which worked in dialogue with each other as to inform and shape my dissertation. .
This was no mean task and required both reflection and personal challenge – an acceptance of painful self-realisations – in order to expose the normalised assumptions endemic in my attitudes. I judged men as ‘bad men’ – when their risk taking behaviours impacted on their families. Recognising this and then understanding these behaviours from a non-judgmental psychotherapeutic stance enabled the complex systemic relationships around men’s mental health in rural Zambia to no longer be hidden in a blind spot – beginning their exposure to greater understanding and analysis.
Such fruitful discoveries from such a self-reflective approach and a psychotherapeutic stance point add to the enhanced value of practitioners engaging in research and the blending of psychotherapeutic stances with research objectives.
More detail on this aspect of my work-based placement is given in Who Cares about Mr Mubanga
Lesley Hill, MSc Africa and International Development (2014)
 ZAMBART – a non-for profit research organisation based within the University of Zambia that is also a research collaborating centre for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine