Jaquie Daniels and Colin Feltham
In this chapter, we attempt to define personal development within counselling training and to explain its importance. Results of a small survey are used to illustrate issues arising from writing journals in this context. Difficulties are outlined and suggestions for addressing them made, with the expanded use of personal development writing being commended for counselling trainees.
It is a long-standing tradition in counselling training that trainees are required to write a personal journal as part of their personal development. Practice varies between courses, so that some trainees may keep their journal entirely private, while others may have to submit it, or parts or a summary of it, to be formally assessed. Trainees are sensitised to the challenging personal nature of counselling training from the interview stage onwards, and many course components, such as skill development modules, require trainees to share, reflect on and work with their own life experiences and issues (Mearns 1997). It is also traditional on a majority of training courses that participation in personal development groups (PDGs) is required, and intensive residential components are common. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) requires accredited courses to include a personal development component. Many courses also, or alternatively, require trainees to undergo their own counselling or psychotherapy. It is perhaps surprising then that a clear definition or understanding of what personal development means is often lacking.
Most agree that counsellors and psychotherapists need to be highly self-aware, non-defensive, familiar with the experience of the client role and committed to personal development in order to be effective practitioners (Johns 1996; Wilkins 1997; Wosket 1999). Many assert that it is an advantage to be a 'wounded healer', to have experienced difficulties and to have come through them, especially with the aid of therapy. In particular, Page (1999) points to the importance of bringing some