Visualising Research - A Journey to Rediscovery

By Tegan Brierley-Sollis 

If you go into the Gallery on Mold Road campus, you will find entries from this year’s Visualising Research Competition. Among them is my entry titled ‘A Journey to Rediscovery’. 

Elissa Griffiths, Digital, Design and Communications Coordinator and I worked on the entry together. Rather than focus our attempt on research content, we focused on my journey within the research process. When we were discussing initial ideas, we sat under the tree (which we have renamed the creative tree) overlooking campus grounds and the idea planning turned into a beautiful, organic conversation. The conversation centred on how much I loved my PhD journey but also how it helped me to find a way back to myself. When my Viva was just around the corner, I had the realisation that my worth was not attached to what I achieved or completed… it is so much more. The image, which Elissa and I entered into the competition is one that harnesses reflection and truly seeing yourself. It is a simple portrait in front of a window - it symbolises the importance of keeping connected to yourself during the research process, but also the breadth of opportunity that exists when you remember who you are at the core.

I realised, both through the research content and my personal journey, that if I stay true to myself, create meaningful connections, lean deeper into curiosity, give people a safe and nurturing space, and offer my wholehearted presence to them, then I am doing so much more than I think. I also realised that the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important and longest-serving relationship we will ever have. Truly connecting with our authentic self (which might mean ‘meeting’ ourselves again) and treating ourselves with love and nurture can be transformative. I learnt this over a year ago, but taking part in the visualising research competition gave me the opportunity to express this in a new and exciting way, which hopefully other people can resonate with. 

This lesson relates to my research on trauma and trauma-informed practice because it serves as a helpful reminder that we should understand one another via a holistic lens, which considers the individual as a whole, rather than simply what they have experienced. Strengths-based philosophy is at the heart of trauma-informed approaches where there is supportive intent, and a conscious effort is made to avoid re-traumatisation. The findings from my PhD (the emerging culture of trauma-informed practice within North Wales Youth Justice Service) indicated that creating a supportive, relational space where more than the behaviour is considered encourages engagement amongst justice-involved children. It also encourages children to share their stories and experiences, which can foster healing.  

However, when empathic child-practitioner relationships are formed, it can increase the risk of vicarious trauma, which is when negative accumulative changes occur in various ways (physically, emotionally, behaviourally etc.) that in turn can lead to burnout. Vicarious trauma is typically associated with counselling roles; however, various professions form meaningful and empathic relationships with individuals engaged in the services, thus, vicarious trauma must be considered. My research plans are to explore vicarious trauma more amongst youth justice practitioners, policing staff, and barristers and I am currently looking at different project ideas in collaboration with colleagues and external services. The wellbeing of practitioners is of interest when working in a more trauma-informed, relational space because those who care for and connect with others need care and connection themselves.
‘Safety is not the absence of threat, it is the presence of connection’ ~ Dr Gabor Mate  

To find out more contact Tegan Brierley- Sollis