Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Meaningful Experiences in the Counseling Process

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Meaningful Experiences in the Counseling Process

Article excerpt

Researchers examined the experiences of a counseling session from the perspectives of counselors-in-training (CITs) and clients. Post-session phenomenological interviews were conducted to elicit participants' meaningful experiences, and the analysis revealed both similarities and differences. Researchers found the following themes most meaningful for CITs: Counseling Relationship, Insight, Immediacy, Goals, Emotion, Nonverbals, Transference and Countertransference, and CIT Negotiating the Counseling Process and their Role. Themes of meaningful experiences that emerged for clients include: Counseling Relationship, Insight, Immediacy, Goals, Emotion, and Reflections on Counseling. Implications for counselor education and supervision are described.

Keywords: counseling process, counselors-in-training, supervision, counselor educator, counselor education, insight

Researchers have demonstrated empirically that counseling is effective (Nelson & Neufeldt, 1996), yet we still know relatively little about the counseling process (Paulson, Everall, & Stuart, 2001). The counseling process consists of at least a counselor and a client, each with their own unique perspective on the counseling relationship and what is happening of significance (Elliott & James, 1989), thus it is important to elicit and consider each perspective to gain a whole picture of the counseling process (Blow et al, 2009; Elliott & James, 1989; Llewelyn, 1988; Sells, Smith, & Moon, 1996). Comparisons between counselor and client perspectives allows for a more thorough evaluation of the counseling process, yet few researchers have taken this on (Sells et al., 1996). Elliott and Sharpiro (1992) called for an examination of in-session subjective experience, and for a comparison of significant in-session events among multiple perspectives. Recognizing discrepancies in counselors' and clients' experiences of the counseling process may allow counselors to build stronger alliances (Elliott & Shapiro, 1992) and to provide counseling that is more effective by using participant experiences as a guide (Elliott & James, 1989; Singer, 2005).

Counseling is a dynamic process to investigate, consisting of interrelated and systemic entities of client variables, counselor variables, and what is happening between them (Henkelman & Paulson, 2006). If we hear directly from clients about their experiences in counseling, we can better understand the process (Blow et al., 2009; Elliott & James, 1989) and better prepare counselors to be effective (Elliott & James, 1989; Singer, 2005). Since each participant has his or her own view of the counseling relationship and process, each perspective is important in understanding what is happening of substance (Paulson et al., 2001). Rather than one objective reality, there are multiple realities based on experience, presenting a need to hear from multiple perspectives (Sells et al., 1996). In the current study the authors examine what is meaningful to participants in counseling, and what is similar or different in those perceptions for counselors-in-training and clients.

Empirical Research on Participant Perceptions in Counseling

Historically, researchers examined the counseling process from the lens of the counselor, however more recently many researchers have studied client perceptions of counseling (Bowman & Marshall, 2000; Henkelman & Paulson, 2006; Paulson et al., 2001), and some researchers have explored the counseling process more holistically by eliciting client and counselor perceptions and by comparing these perceptions (Llewelyn, 1988). Martin and Stelmaczonek (1988) found, through post session interviews for eight or fourteen-session treatment, that clients and counselors identified the same occurrences as most important in counseling, and were only slightly different in their ranking of these occurrences. The most important occurrences for both clients and counselors were the expression of insight, providing personally revealing and significant material about self or interpersonal relationships, the expression of new ways of being or behaving either in session or outside of session, and the description and exploration of feelings. …

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