Case discussion groups in counselling psychology Training: A mixed methods study of the experience of trainees

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Pariya Habibi

Abstract

Background. Counselling psychologists require competency in various areas. Critical self-reflection is arguably one of the most important, and distinguishes the profession from other applied psychology. Groupwork facilitates change and understanding of the self in relation to others, offering counselling psychologist trainees a formal space for reflection, support and learning. Previous work has explored personal development and peer supervision groups for counselling psychologists and counsellours in training,but not the use of a case discussion group as part of a professional doctoral programme. Within a case discussion group, members are allocated the task of sharing their counselling practice by presenting cases in the presence of peers, with the ultimate aim of developing more effective ways of working with the issues presented.Method. A mixed methods design was used to investigate the experience of nine training counselling psychologists who had already completed a 12-week case discussion group. Before commencing, trainees completed a goal assessment form,indicating their goals and expectations. Trainees rated their goal on a Likert-type scale at regular intervals throughout the groups. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine trainees to explore how they believed participation in the group helped them reach their goals.Findings. Trainees indicated three goal types: to increase knowledge about different psychotherapeutic approaches, self-development and developing their ability to give and receive feedback within the groups. Trainees reported that participation helped them achieve their self-narrated goals. Change was most significant during the first half of group participation (between weeks three and seven). Four themes emerged from qualitative interview analysis: the experience of attending a case discussion group; establishing safety and trust within the group, engaging with boundaries and the structure of the group, and learning from being in a group and renegotiating goals.Conclusion. Identifying personal goals prior to attending a case discussion group is reported as a useful activity by counselling psychologists enrolled within a taught professional doctorate programme. Importantly, it does not interfere with how trainees experience the groups in question. However, there is a disparity between trainees' expectations and what they report gaining from attending a case discussion group. Overall trainees report benefits from attending a case discussion group although within the current context, it was found that hindering events within a group were not disclosed within qualitative interviews. This is considered in view of themethodological design whereby the researcher held dual relationships with participants. Recommendations for both counselling psychologists in training and for course trainers are presented

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Original languageEnglish
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Award date31 Dec 2016