Doctorate in Clinical Psychology : Main Research Portfolio
: 1) What are the relationship experiences of couples where one member identifies as transgender?: a systematic review and meta-ethnography ; 2) Understanding therapists’ experiences of working with Trans clients to inform training and clinical practice within an NHS Secondary Care Psychological Therapies Service; 3) Relationships through the autism lens: exploring autistics adults’ experiences of romantic relationships using an interpretative phenomenological approach.

  • Nicola Gunby

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)


Romantic relationships are beneficial for life satisfaction and well-being. Many
autistic adults seek partners and successfully develop and maintain romantic
relationships, but many others struggle. While there is some initial research into
relationship experiences and challenges for the autistic population, understanding is limited. This project explored 10 autistic adults’ experiences of being in a romantic relationship. All gave rich accounts of their experiences. Four overarching themes with 12 sub themes were identified using an interpretative phenomenological approach: reciprocity of autism and relationships (a two-way impact and meaning making process between autism and relationships); relationship challenges (intensity and overwhelm, coping with uncertainty, and feeling different); relationship work (effort and compromise, needing partners to understand autism, and open communication); and relationship rewards (safety and security, partners as supporters and enablers, friendship and companionship, and love and intimacy).
Findings suggest that autistic adults can form rewarding and fulfilling romantic
relationships. It is important for partners to understand and respect autistic adults needs including their autism diagnosis. There are some specific relationship challenges and experiences which appear related to autism. Clinical implications and avenues for future research are discussed.
Date of Award15 Sept 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorCathy Randle-Phillips (Supervisor), Catherine Butler (Supervisor), Ailsa Russell (Supervisor), Kristina Bennert (Supervisor), Lucy Fiddick (Supervisor) & Catriona Anderson (Supervisor)

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