So, why are you doing a PhD?
So, why are you doing a PhD?
The purpose of the blog for this website is multi-faceted. It serves as a place where we can share information and resources that are helpful for people considering starting therapy, a place we can provide expansive explanations for some of the terms we often refer to in therapy and where we can collate evidence-based insights – because let’s be honest, there’s a whole lot of ‘helpful’ information out there but it can be very hard to know how much comes from research, and how much comes from someone’s own experience, thoughts or good intentions. And this matters deeply to me, because time after time I sit across the room from people who explain in desperation that they’ve tried “everything” and nothing works for them, which only serves to reinforce the idea that they are ‘too broken’, ‘too difficult’ or somehow just doing something wrong. None of this helps people to recover, heal from, or work through (whatever term works for you) their trauma, and in fact only serves to make that process, experience, journey (again, whatever term works for you) harder and longer. Not cool.
So, you might be able to tell that evidence-based practice and having solid research behind an approach is super important for underpinning how we work as counsellors and psychotherapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing, and for me personally. One of my core values is curiosity. That comes from an innate desire to want to understand ‘why’. I’ve always had a love of getting to the very bottom of a problem or situation, I’m fascinated by what drives our behaviours because none of that happens in a vacuum. And I’m constantly reflecting on all of that at a personal level – I know that what I have experienced in my own life has directly affected not only what I have done with my life, but how I’ve done it and who I’ve done it with. For example my own lived-experience of attachment trauma, intimate partner violence and event-based trauma have all directly fed into the way that I work, the modalities I have studied and trained in, and it’s very much connected to my dream of completing a PhD, and becoming part of the community of academics that finds out why, how and in what ways we can support more people, more effectively.
I’ve chosen to share the content of this blog this week because intimate partner violence (IPV) here in Australia is at a crisis point. It has been for some years now and yet we have experienced an horrific loss of life over the last two weeks seeing five women losing their lives to men that they knew. In keeping with the #saytheirnames movement I am choosing to name them here today: Krystal Marshall, Thi Thuy Huong Nguyen, Lilie James, Analyn ‘Logee’ Oasis and Alice McShera. Globally, 1 in 3 women have been subjected to IPV in their lifetime. (WHO, 2021) IPV rates increase at the intersection of marginalisation (i.e., disability, cultural and linguistic diversity, queer or trans women all experience higher rates of IPV). (Oram et al., 2021) Given the complexity around safety, stigma and shame these rates are significantly unreported which means actual numbers are likely to be far higher. (McCleary-Sills et al., 2016)
The UN has a goal to end violence against women and girls by 2030. (UN, 1993) That is just over 6 years away. Let’s be clear, it would take a miracle to meet that target at this point. The World Health Organization suggest that in order to meet this target would require changes at all levels in society – judicial, institutional, economic & societal norms. (WHO, 2021) It would also require genuine equality between men and women. There are national targets and a National Plan to end violence against women and girls in Australia – the second decade-long plan was published in 2022. We need all these goals and policy statements (and all of the research that helped create them), because without a really good, evidence-informed plan, we will never end gender-based violence. However, one of the additional, and significant challenges is that every year that passes sees tens of thousands of women trying to navigate the traumatic effects of IPV, if they are ‘lucky’ enough to live through the experience. IPV is associated with a range of mental health conditions including PTSD, C-PTSD, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidality. (Pico-Alfonso et al., 2006; Potter et al., 2021) IPV is also connected to a range of physiological conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and gynecological complications. (McFarlane, 2000; Coker et al., 2021) in addition to sleep disturbances, social isolation and health behaviours associated with low involvement in physical activity and increased sedentary behaviours. (Cao et al., 2021; Gammage et al., 2022).
I won’t share my full research proposal with you (it’s over 15,000 words long!) but this is why I am doing my PhD. Because I feel helpless. Because there are so many women who need other options beyond talk therapy and psychopharmacology (both of which absolutely play a role here), that might provide adjunctively supportive in their trauma recovery and integration. Because this is something I can do in addition to continuing to work in private practice. Supporting victim-survivors of IPV and being a research nerd are two things I feel passionately about, so it seemed kind of obvious to do a PhD in this field. I’ve wanted to do a PhD since I was 26 years old. It took 20 years to get it started (thanks life) but it’s happened just when it was supposed to.
If you’d like to talk to me about my PhD, explore therapy, or would like a safe space to talk about your mental health, please get in touch with us: www.theabaker.com.au / firstname.lastname@example.org / 03 9077 8194.