Phenomenological Exploration

Phenomenological Exploration

Psychology homework help
Journal Article Review
136 Journal of HumaNisTic cOuNsELiNG ◆ July 2016 ◆ Volume 55

© 2016 by the American Counseling Association. All rights reserved.

Received 12/29/14 Revised 09/29/15

Accepted 10/07/15 DOI: 10.1002/johc.12030

Overwhelmed With the Burden of Being Myself:

A Phenomenological Exploration of the Existential Experiences of


L. Marinn Pierce

s s s

Little research exists about the lived experiences of counselors-in-training during their

practicum and internship experiences. The results of a phenomenological study exploring

the existential experiences of counselors-in-training are presented. Implications for counselor

development and supervision, as well as needs for future research and exploration, are discussed.

Keywords: existential, counselor development, internship, supervision

s s s

Rogers (1961) noted that the humanity of the counselor is the most important tool in the counseling session, and other theorists and researchers (Glad- ding, 1997; Guy, 1987; Patterson & Einsenberg, 1983) have supported this view. Therefore, it can be assumed that increased personal understanding of the self, or self-awareness, is an integral and foundational part of the development of the professional counselor. This belief in the importance of the humanity of the counselor is evident in the increased emphasis on personal dispositions in the ongoing assessment of counselors-in-training (American Counseling Association, 2014; Pierce, 2010). There are a vari- ety of ways to support counselors-in-training in their self-exploration in both academic and experiential settings, and much literature has been produced regarding how counselor educators can support the develop- ment of counselors-in-training. Various theorists of counselor development have addressed the progress of the counseling supervisee from a place of dependence on the supervisor to increased independence from the su- pervisor (Skovholt & Rønnestad, 1995; Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Delworth, 1998). Although these models provide a framework for understanding the

L. Marinn Pierce, Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation, California State University, Fresno. This author would like to thank Alexandra K. Holt and Candice Newsum for their assistance with this study. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to L. Marinn Pierce, Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation, California State University, Fresno, 5005 North Maple Avenue, Fresno, CA 93740 (e-mail: [email protected]).

Journal of HumaNisTic cOuNsELiNG ◆ July 2016 ◆ Volume 55 137

development of the emerging counselor, they fail to address the personal experiences of developing counselors. Without an understanding of the intimate existential crises experienced by supervisees, counseling supervi- sors potentially neglect the personal struggles that counselors-in-training encounter as a result of the professional growth experience. An increased understanding of the lived experiences of counselors-in-training related to the existential experiences they encounter during their practicum and/ or internship experiences can enhance the quality and depth of counselor supervision. The purpose of this study was to explore specifically the ex- istential experiences of counselors-in-training during the practicum and/ or internship experiences.

Literature revieW

Counseling Supervision

Counseling supervision is a hierarchical, evaluative relationship between counseling professionals and a supervisor, through which these counseling professionals develop skills, gain knowledge, and increase self-awareness and understanding (Bernard & Goodyear, 2009). Bernard (1997) identi- fied three areas of foci for counseling supervision: intervention skills (how supervisees respond in session), conceptualization skills (how supervisees understand what is occurring in session and how they determine what in- terventions to use), and personalization skills (how supervisees address issues of countertransference and how they integrate their personal selves into the counseling session). On the basis of a review of the literature, Falender (2014) found that counselors place a greater emphasis on intervention and conceptualization skills.

Several theories and models of counselor development exist to support the practice and implementation of counselor education (Bernard & Good- year, 2009; Borders & Brown, 2005; Haynes, Corey, & Moulton, 2003). Aten, Strain, and Gillespie (2008) proposed a transtheoretical model of clinical supervision based on the stages of change model (Prochaska & Norcross, 2001). In this approach, supervisees proceed through a series of stages of change, and supervisors use various interventions, known as processes, which are either experiential or behavioral, to support supervisees’ growth across the stages of change. Aten et al. noted that supervisees experience anxiety during the contemplation and action stages and that, while in the contemplation stage, supervisees experience heightened awareness about their roles and performance. This awareness leads to anxiety as well as ambivalence. The experience of supervisees in the action stage is similar; however, the anxiety is related to the use of newly developed skills.

The integrated developmental model (Stoltenberg et al., 1998) is probably the most recognized of the developmental approaches to counselor development. Stoltenberg et al. (1998) described counselors as developing across three overriding structures: (a) self and other

138 Journal of HumaNisTic cOuNsELiNG ◆ July 2016 ◆ Volume 55

awareness, (b) motivation, and (c) autonomy. These counselors develop across three levels within eight specific domains: (a) intervention skills competence, (b) assessment techniques, (c) interpersonal assessment, (d) client conceptualization, (e) individual differences, (f) theoretical orientation, (g) treatment plans and goals, and (h) professional ethics. Level 1 counselors have limited first-hand knowledge or experience of the domain in question. Although they are highly motivated, these counselors are also highly reliant on the supervisor for guidance and approval and tend to be focused on their own inadequacies. Although Level 2 counselors are more focused on the client, they are in a place of fluctuation between dependence on supervisors and their own indepen- dence. They can, at times, become overly focused on the client and lose sight of themselves. Level 3 counselors are confident in their abilities, including the knowledge of when to reach out for consultation. Level 3 counselors continue this development across their professional careers, and this continuation is noted as Level 3i, or the integrated counselor. These individuals effectively integrate their abilities across the eight domains within the three structures (Stoltenberg et al., 1998).

Several of these theories address supervisee anxiety. The source of this anxiety is described as the fear of being observed and evaluated, and anxiety is viewed as a positive opportunity for growth in the course of counseling supervision. Thus, counseling supervisors face the challenge of balancing their supervisees’ anxieties, which they increase, with support and encouragement (Borders & Brown, 2005). Borders and Brown (2005) identified that supervisees experience two primary types of anxiety: state anxiety and trait anxiety. State anxiety refers to the anxiety that supervisees experience given their current developmental level, their amount of counseling experience, and the difficulty of their presenting clients. At the same time, supervisees enter the supervision experience with a preexisting propensity toward anxiety, which is known as trait anxiety (Borders & Brown, 2005). The means by which supervisors address both state and trait anxieties is dependent on the theoretical orientation of the supervisor (Bernard & Goodyear, 2009).

Theoretical approaches to understanding counselor development, rooted in traditional counseling theories, are also used in the supervision process (Aten et

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