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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What brings you here? : a narrative inquiry into the decision to pursue a master's degree in counselling psychology Leach Smith, Erin Theresa


While much has been written about students’ career development, not much is known about the real-life process by which students come to career decisions in today’s changing world of work. No studies have yet investigated the career decision-making (CDM) process of master’s in counselling psychology students specifically. As a result, the purpose of this study was to explore how and why people decide to study counselling. My research question was: “What is the experience of making and implementing the decision to pursue a master’s degree in counselling psychology?” Using the method of narrative inquiry, I conducted semi-structured interviews with eight master’s in counselling psychology students and the resulting narratives suggest thirteen cross-narrative themes. These themes encapsulate students’ experiences in terms of the process of decision-making, the influence of social context, motivations for pursuing the field of counselling, and motivations for entering and sustaining graduate studies. The findings suggest there is no one straight path that leads people to study counselling, but rather a process involving individual experiences, the influence of others, and a varying tempo of reflection and action. Both planned and unplanned events, as well as decision-making through intuition, emotion, and sometimes a sense of destiny or spiritual connection, are implicated. Themes also suggest that participants chose to study counselling because of the enjoyment of helping experiences, an interest in people, and a desire for meaningful work. Findings indicate the need for additional qualitative research into CDM processes. Implications for the practice of career counselling include expanding beyond traditional career counselling theories to include integration of non-rational and contextual decision-making approaches.

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