Personal development in counselling psychology training : a critical investigation of the views and experiences of trainers and trainees
It has been suggested that, despite its increased centrality in the training of counsellors and counselling psychologists, personal development remains a poorly articulated area that suffers from a surprising scarcity of literature. The present study set out to investigate these claims and to begin to address this imbalance. A critical analysis of the literature identified four key areas: 1) the definition of personal development, 2) the facilitation of personal development, 3) the assessment of personal development and 4)the selection of trainees, in which complex but important questions remained. A mixed qualitative-quantitative methodology was used to investigate the views and experiences of UK counselling psychology trainers and trainees in relation to these key areas. Themes from a grounded theory analysis of 8 in-depth interviews enabled the articulation of a model of personal development and informed the development of a quantitative questionnaire survey instrument that was used to test and expand the interview findings. Eighty-eight respondents, comprising trainers and trainees from four training institutions, participated in the survey. Findings supported viewing personal development during training as a complex, broad and holistic concept and process that is affected by a diversity of personal and professional experiences, rather than as something that can be equated with the experience of personal therapy. Overall, views varied considerably amongst participants, and a significant difference was observed between the ways that trainers and trainees defined personal development. Many respondents reported feeling dissatisfied with course provisions; thinking that personal development was not adequately defined or integrated in training; that courses were too academic and not sufficiently experiential; and believing that improvements should be made to the way in which personal development is assessed during training and at selection. Differences in views and experiences were explained in terms of divergent conceptualisations of personal development and a variety of philosophical tensions. Implications for counselling psychology training were discussed, the methodology of the project evaluated and suggestions for further research proposed.