Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Counseling

An Examination of the Process, Outcomes and Attitudes of Counselor-Trainees Participating in an Experiential Group: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Counseling

An Examination of the Process, Outcomes and Attitudes of Counselor-Trainees Participating in an Experiential Group: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

According to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 2001 Guidelines, Master's level programs are required to offer at least one course in group work. The Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) 2000 Standards indicates that counselor trainees should participate in 10 clock hours of experiential training. These standards require that the experiential group provide counselor-trainees with the opportunity for skill development in appropriate self-disclosure, giving and receiving feedback, development of empathy, self-awareness, use of confrontation and experiencing group membership (Corey & Corey, 2002; Johnson & Johnson, 1997; Yalom, 1995). Brown (1992), Merta, Wolfgang, and McNeil (1993), and Robison, Jones, and Berglund (1996) stated that a comprehensive experience for trainees incorporates the following components: lecture, encouragement of critical thinking about the group process variables, and experiential learning. Thus it is expected that an effective group experience along with didactic training would lead to personal and professional growth and development of counselor-trainees.

Research on group work is vast; however, limited research has focused on the experiential component of counselor-training. Researchers who have examined the experiential group experience have focused on the influence of techniques on the group process (McGuire, Taylor, Broome, Blau, & Abbott, 1986); the use of corrective feedback (Stockton, Morran & Harris, 1991); the use of student letter exchange (Cummings, 2001); the use of process notes (Falco & Bauman, 2004); and activities for working with counselor-trainees in experiential groups (Osborn, Danninhirsch, & Page, 2003). The aforementioned researchers noted the importance and the impact of the experiential group on counselor-trainees' personal and professional development.

Other researchers have examined attitudes and perceptions of counselor-trainees participating in experiential groups. For example, Irving and Williams (1995) examined perceptions about the group process, counselor training outcomes, and trainees' preferred learning styles. The learning styles were identified as activists, reflectors, theorists, and pragmatists. The researchers suggested that learning styles provided a gauge to understand how participants' might feel in a group. This knowledge will provide a basis for understanding group participants' individual needs and increase knowledge about those who might and might not benefit from the group experience.

Researchers have not extensively examined the impact of the experiential group on the group process, group outcomes, or attitudes among counselor-trainees. One such study by Anderson and Price (2001) assessed attitudes about the group experience of 108 counselor-trainees enrolled in seven counseling programs. The researchers assessed trainees' perceptions of the effectiveness of the experiential group by examining self-reported attitudes about outcomes (the usefulness of the experiential group and whether the group was viewed as a positive learning experience), and group process (quality of the learning experience, issues of dual relationships or privacy concerns, general comfort with the group, and choice to participate in the experiential group). They concluded that counselor-trainees believed the group experience was a vital part of their counselor training and that some discomfort in the group might be an unavoidable experience for some of the participants.

Perrone, Smith, and Carlson (2003) examined goal setting and attainment among 56 counselor-trainees who participated in an experiential group. A list of ten goals were delineated from the trainees' responses which included building self-awareness, personal growth, building group facilitation skills, understanding the group process, personal growth as a counselor, increased confidence and comfort with group work, building interpersonal skills, learning from role modeling, developing relationships, and experiencing people from diverse cultures and background. …

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