Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Supervisor, Counselor-in-Training and Client Perspectives in Counseling: A Qualitative Exploration

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Supervisor, Counselor-in-Training and Client Perspectives in Counseling: A Qualitative Exploration

Article excerpt

Researchers in the counseling field have much to discover about the counseling process and how it works (Paulson, Everall, & Stuart, 2001; Sackett, Lawson, & Burge, 2012). Researchers who examine multiple perspectives (Elliott & James, 1989; Moon, Dillon, & Sprenkle, 1990; Sackett et al., 2012; Sells, Smith, & Moon, 1996), in-session subjective experience (Bennun, Hahlweg, Schindler, & Langlotz, 1986; Elliott & Shapiro, 1992), and comparisons of those experiences further our comprehension of the counseling process (Elliott & Shapiro, 1992; Sackett et al, 2012). The client and counselor have separate perspectives, each of which is important to recognize in order to gain a picture of what is meaningful in counseling (Blow et al, 2009). Further, the perspective of an observer offers a compelling extension for our understanding (Elliott & James, 1989), as an observer can identify subtleties in interactions between clients and counselors, as well as shed light on experiences that clients may be less willing to report and of which counselors may be unaware. Consequently, capturing multiple perspectives on the counseling process, including client, counselor and observer, enriches understanding. Each perspective is compelling and contributes something unique to understanding the counseling process (Elliott & James, 1989; Sells et al, 1996).

Research on Client, Counselor and Observer Perspectives on Counseling Sessions

There is a dearth of research exploring multiple perspectives on counseling sessions beyond those of client and counselor. Several researchers have examined clients' and counselors' experiences and perspectives in counseling (Lietaer, 1992; Lietaer & Neirinck, 1986; Llewelyn, 1988; Martin & Stelmaczonek, 1988; Sackett et al., 2012; Sells et al, 1996). For example, in a recent study, Sackett et al. (2012) found that clients and counselors-in-training (CITs) consider many of the same aspects meaningful in a counseling session, including the relationship, goals, insights, immediacy and emotions. Findings such as these are valuable for clinical supervision, because supervisors' awareness of similarities and differences in clients' and counselors' perspectives can enhance supervisors' training of CITs to effectively work with clients. Further, when CITs are counseling, the supervisor's perspective becomes part of the picture as well, and contributes indirectly to the counseling process through the supervision process.

As Elliott and Shapiro (1992) have noted, few researchers have added a third lens by exploring the process through client, counselor and observer perspectives. This statement from more than 20 years ago is still accurate today. In the research that does exist (Blow et al, 2009; Elliott & Shapiro, 1992), discrepancies have been found when comparing client, counselor and observer perspectives. Thus, including all three perspectives creates a more complete picture of the process (Llewelyn, 1988). In two studies, researchers explored a single client system (either a couple or an individual client) from multiple perspectives, including an observer's. Blow et al. (2009) examined experiences of key therapeutic moments from the perspectives of counselor, client (i.e., a couple) and observation team. Therapeutic mistakes, as labeled by the observation team, did not detract from the work in counseling, given the strong therapeutic alliance. Similarly, what the observation team initially considered to be missed opportunities, they later saw as movement in a direction that they could not anticipate, and that worked well for the couple. Elliott and Shapiro (1992) elicited client, counselor and observer accounts of significant in-session events for a single client system (i.e., one client) as well. Most often the three perspectives were in general agreement. Elliott and Shapiro (1992) saw the few discrepancies in perspectives as opportunities for further understanding of the events and ultimately the counseling process. …

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