Psychological Helping & Support Research Group

UCL Psychological Helping and Support Research Group

Annotated bibliography of selected papers

Dr Chris Barker and Dr Nancy Pistrang
Department of Clinical Health and Educational Psychology
University College London;

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Our programme of research focuses on the communication of psychological help and support, both by professionals and in everyday life. We hope to contribute to the development of theory about the components of effective psychological helping, and also to address the practical problems of delivering help to people in distress. These are the main studies that we have published at UCL. Please email either of us for reprints or further information.

Barker, C., Pistrang, N., Shapiro, D.A., & Shaw, I. (1990). Coping and help-seeking in the UK adult population. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 29, 271-285. (National survey of the UK adult population. Respondents tended to prefer informal helpers, particularly partners and close relatives, for psychological problems, although 40% said they would use their family doctor.)

Pistrang, N, & Barker, C. (1992). Clients’ beliefs about psychological problems. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 5, 325-336. (Examined how psychiatric patients viewed the causes of and treatment for their psychological problems. Used a new instrument, the “Opinions about Psychological Problems” (OPP).)

Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (1992). Disclosure of concerns in breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 1, 183-192. (Women with breast cancer tended to turn for emotional support to partners, close female relatives, and female friends. Communication with partners was more problematic than with other helpers.)

Barker, C., Pistrang, N., Shapiro, D. A., Davies, S., & Shaw, I. (1993). You in Mind: a preventive mental health television series. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 32, 281-293. (Evaluated a BBC series designed to demonstrate ways of coping with common mental health problems.)

Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (1995). The partner relationship in psychological response to breast cancer. Social Science and Medicine, 40, 789-797. (Women’s satisfaction with helping from the partner was associated with better psychological well-being. A good helping relationship with another person did not compensate for a poor helping relationship with the partner.)

Wanigaratne, S.D., & Barker, C. (1995). Clients' preferences for styles of therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 34, 215-222. (Used a video vignette method to assess psychiatric day hospital patients’ preferences for therapeutic orientation. The cognitive-behavioural approach was the most preferred.)

Pistrang, N., Barker, C. & Rutter, C. (1997). Social support as conversation: Analysing breast cancer patients' interactions with their partners. Social Science and Medicine, 45, 773-782. (In-depth qualitative analysis of helping interactions using tape-assisted recall, which demonstrates the importance of personal meanings in the understanding of how support is given and received.)

Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (1998). Partners and fellow patients: Two sources of emotional support for women with breast cancer. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26, 439-456. (Naturalistic experiment which compared helping from the partner with helping from a fellow female patient for women with breast cancer. Observers rated the fellow patients as more helpful, empathic and supportive, but there were no differences between the helpers from the discloser’s point of view.) [PubMed]

Pistrang, N., Clare, L., & Barker, C. (1999). The helping process in couples during recovery from a heart attack: A single case study. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 72, 227-237. (A tape-assisted recall study of the helping conversation between a husband who had had a heart attack and his wife. The couple displayed generally low levels of empathy, and their communication was not regarded as helpful by outside observers, although it was rated positively by the participants. The case illustrates some of the dilemmas of helping in close relationships.)

Pistrang, N., Solomons, W., & Barker, C. (1999). Peer support for women with breast cancer: The role of empathy and self-disclosure. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 9, 217-229. (Women with breast cancer rated tapes of various peer helping styles. Helpers disclosing their own experiences were only evaluated positively if they also showed empathy for their helpee. Qualitative data suggested that empathy and appropriate disclosure were valued as important components of effective helping.)

Cape, J., Barker, C., Buszewicz, M. & Pistrang, N. (2000). General practitioner management of common emotional problems (I): definitions and literature review. British Journal of General Practice, 50, 313-318. (Reviews studies of how general practitioners manage psychological distress in routine consultations, finding preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of such consultations.) [eprint]

Cape, J., Barker, C., Buszewicz, M. & Pistrang, N. (2000). General practitioner management of common emotional problems II: A research agenda for the development of evidence-based practice. British Journal of General Practice, 50, 396-400. (Sets out an agenda for researching general practitioners’ approaches to psychological management, based on three central helping processes: establishing a relationship, developing a shared understanding, and changing behaviour.) [eprint]

Mattison, V. & Pistrang , N. (2000). Saying goodbye: When keyworker relationships end. London: Free Association Books. (Examines issues of separation and loss at the end of keyworker relationships between people with learning disabilities and their care staff.)

Solomon, M., Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (2001). The benefits of mutual support groups for parents of children with disabilities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 113-132. (A grounded theory analysis of what members found helpful about their mutual support groups. A central theme emerged of change of identity: in socio-political, interpersonal and individual ways.) [PubMed]

Pistrang, N., Picciotto, A., & Barker, C. (2001). The communication of empathy in couples during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 615-636. (A tape-assisted recall study of how couples who were expecting a baby communicated empathy in their helping conversations. Five themes characterising high responses and five themes characterising low empathy responses were identified.)

Barker, C., & Pistrang, N. (2002). Psychotherapy and social support: integrating research on psychological helping. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 361-379. (Examines the similarities between social support, or informal helping, and psychotherapy, and argues for a conceptual integration of research on psychological helping.) [pdf]

Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (2005). How partners talk in times of stress: A process analysis approach. In T.A. Revenson, K. Kayser, & G. Bodenmann (Eds.), Couples coping with stress: Emerging perspectives on dyadic coping (pp. 97-119). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (Describes, with illustrative case examples, a process analysis approach to studying helping interactions in close relationships.)

Buszewicz, M., Pistrang, N., Barker, C., Cape, J., & Martin, J. (2006). Patients’ experiences of GP consultations: What is helpful and unhelpful for those presenting with psychological problems? British Journal of General Practice, 56, 496-503. (A tape-assisted recall study of patients’ views of general practice consultations in which they discussed psychological problems. The quality of the doctor-patient relationship was central to their experiences of whether the consultation was helpful or not.) [PubMed]

Harris, T.J.R., Pistrang, N., & Barker, C. (2006). Couples’ experiences of the support process in depression. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 79, 1-21. (A qualitative interview study of couples in which one member had been depressed. The themes captured the challenges couples faced over the trajectory of the depressive episode, and the difficulties inherent in attempting to provide support to a depressed partner.) [PubMed]

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Updated: 8 March 2007