'Changed by the encounter' : the learning and change that counsellors and psychotherapists experience as a result of their work with clients
This thesis focuses on the learning and change that counsellors and psychotherapists experience as a consequence of their work with clients. It details two qualitative studies: a constructivist grounded theory study, and a co-operative self-search inquiry (CSSI) that is based on both the heuristic and co-operative inquiry methodologies. As part of the grounded theory study, I compared the learning and change in two cohorts of participants: a group of therapists who had had one or more significant experiences of working with clients with HIV, and a group that had had no such experiences. Following the theoretical sampling study and literature search, it became clear that no major differences seemed to be evident between the learning and change in both groups of therapists. I therefore constructed a model of general therapist learning and change from the findings of the grounded theory study. This model details the ways in which counsellors and psychotherapists learn and change both personally and professionally as a result of their work with clients. It also refers to the change process, difficult aspects of working as a therapist and other catalysts of learning and change for therapists. For the CSSI, I studied my own and a co-researcher’s learning and change experiences, which were recorded in journals over a period of 9 months. The findings of this study complement those of the grounded theory study by providing further insight into the ways in which learning experiences occur for therapists. I have linked my findings to some of the literature on education and learning, as well as the literature on transformative learning, and have discussed their implications for practice, training and supervision in counselling and psychotherapy. As part of my reflexive process, and congruent with the theme of learning and change, I have also provided details about the ways in which I have learnt and changed as a result of engaging in my doctoral studies.