Alette Willis (PhD)

Chancellor's Fellow -- Senior Lecturer


I am currently Chancellor’s Fellow in Counselling and Psychotherapy.  However, I first came from Canada to Edinburgh in 2008 as a postdoctoral research fellow.  I hold an MSc in Epidemiology and Community Medicine from the University of Ottawa and an MA and PhD in Human Geography from Carleton University.

I have worked as a researcher at a number of institutions including the Community Health Research Unit and the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment (University of Ottawa), and the Centre for Labour and Community Research (Carleton University).  I have also worked as a researcher within a policy context at the Canadian Government’s Homelessness Partnering Secretariat.

Besides working as an academic, I sit on the overseeing committee of the Scottish Storytelling Forum.  On a Sunday afternoon, I can sometimes be found at the Royal Botanic Gardens, telling nature-themed stories to children, as one of the “Talking Trees”. I am also a published author of fiction for adults and for children.  My first novel for children, “How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People)” won the Kelpies Prize in 2011, it is published by Floris Books).

Research summary

My overarching interest is in how people use narratives to make sense of their embodied emotional experiences, to give meaning to their lives, and to make ethical choices.   It is this interest that led me to the field of counselling.

I study narratives in relation to:

  • The impact of religion and spirituality on the professional self-stories of counsellors and psychotherapists
  • The use of story in knowledge exchange
  • understanding ethical decision-making around environmental issues
  • human relationships with place and  “earth others” including animals, plants and landscape features. 

I have explored these topics through oral histories, autoethnography, engagement with published memoirs, analysing conversations in a book club and producing readers’ theatre scripts.

View all 36 publications on Research Explorer