Imagining coherence : the construction of professional identity.
This thesis explores the notion that the construction of coherence in professional
identity is an act of imagining. The first stage of the inquiry focused on what it
means to be a facilitator in person-centred encounter groups and learning
programmes and was conducted through interviews with facilitators. In the second
stage another interview study was undertaken, this time with counsellors whose
training had been in the person-centred therapeutic tradition. The focus here was
on how those interviewed claimed or assembled professional identity.
The inquiry was made complex because throughout the two stages I was
undertaking a person-centred learning programme and then starting in professional
practice as a counsellor. This insider status and the question of whose professional
identity was being constructed both demanded and enabled new ways of looking.
I argue that carrying out research where it would seem not to be possible, because
the relation between the researcher and what is being researched is complex, needs
ways of looking consonant with the context of that research. Thus my self as
researcher became both a site and a tool in the inquiry. An incident during my
learning programme is told as a story and, being constructed as critical to the
inquiry, is examined. Connections are made between the choice of methodology,
the conduct of the research and the practice of counselling and facilitation.
I suggest that participants in the research, facilitators, counsellors and the
researcher, discursively constructed professional identity by positioning who they
were and what they thought they were doing, momentarily, that is in the moment
of talking or writing, within the discourses variously available to them, within
stories of their lives and in relation to their notions of self.