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'A baptism of fire': A qualitative investigation of a trainee counsellor's experience at the start of training

By Julie Folkes-Skinner, Robert Elliott and Sue Wheeler


This paper was published as Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 2010, 10 (2), pp. 83-92. It is available from http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/14733141003750509. Doi: 10.1080/14733141003750509Metadata only entryEmbargoed until June 2011. Full text of this item does not appear in the LRA.Background: Belief in the effectiveness of professional counselling and psychotherapy training is widespread and generally unquestioned. Few studies have attempted to understand the changes experienced by trainees, or identified which aspects of professional training programmes assist them in the process of becoming therapists. Aims: to investigate how a trainee counsellor changes at the start of training, and to identify which aspects of a professional counsellor training programme were helpful in instigating and supporting change. Method: the experience of one trainee counsellor, Margaret, was captured through three semi-structured interviews conducted at the beginning, middle and end of her first term. The data were subjected to systematic qualitative analysis. Findings: Margaret experienced significant change during her first term. Each interview revealed a different phase of her development. The core categories were: becoming something new (week 3); growth in therapeutic confidence (week 6); surviving 'stressful involvement' through supervision (week 11). Experiential learning, in particular group supervision, was helpful throughout. The presence of real clients was identified as the main driver for change. Conclusion: The findings were found to be consistent with a number of other studies, which suggest that training is potentially painful because of the emotional demands it places on trainees, particularly at the start of practice. Consequently trainees require opportunities for experiential learning, peer support and supportive supervision to assist them in their development, but most importantly, given that supportive supervision can only minimise the harm of stressful involvement (Orlinsky & Ronnestad, 2005), they need early positive experiences with clients

Publisher: Taylor & Francis on behalf of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1080/14733141003750509
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9012
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