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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Using life review to facilitate beginning counsellors' personal development McLean, Holly

Abstract

Personal development for helping professionals is imperative for maintaining competent and ethical practices with clients and for counsellors' own emotional well being. Not to be confused with personal therapy, personal development is defined in terms of particular personal attributes or qualities; the enhancement of which are relevant for counselling others. Despite the benefits of personal development and ethical guidelines of the profession, the value of personal development has not generally been part of the culture of counselling practice or a part of university training programs in Canada, including counsellor education at the University of British Columbia. The purpose of this study was to address this issue by developing a program for fostering the personal development of graduate students in counselling psychology that could be included in the Master's curriculum and then to conduct an exploratory evaluation of that program. The overall intention of this research is to be able to provide a psychologically safe venue for facilitating graduate students' personal development so that this could be made available to Master's students in university and other counsellor training programs. The Personal Development through Life Review program was designed to offer first-year Master's students structured small group experiences that encourage self-reflection and feedback from peers. A pilot of this program was conducted with five first year students in counselling psychology. These students met as a group with an experienced group facilitator from the community for nine sessions of life review. Evaluation of this pilot project was guided by two general research questions. Firstly, what benefits to their personal development did the participants attribute to the life review group experience, and secondly, how can the life review group experience be improved to better facilitate the participants' personal development. A qualitative case study approach was used to elicit the rich detail necessary to investigate these questions. The findings from this research showed that the students involved found the experience to be very positive. Fifteen themes that emerged from analysis of narrative summaries of individual feedback interviews with participants related to benefits attributed to the life review group including: Felt the group was a safe venue for experimenting with self-disclosure, group members modeled taking risks and self-disclosing, opportunity to experience what the students had learned about in theory, students reflected on their life review group experiences in terms of counselling others/leading groups, peers in the life review group became a support network, acceptance of positive feedback, gained new awareness of self, aspects of self are validated, highlighted or confirmed, affirmation of non-judgmental stance and individual differences, seeing self in lives of others, learned from each other's experiences, reframing of negative life events and experiences, feeling some resolution about issues and aspects of self, highlighted aspects of self that could be explored further, and timeliness. There were also three themes that emerged relating to suggestions as to how to improve the life review group experience: Include more group sessions or make an ongoing group, space in the group process for further exploration, and make life review group available for other Master's students. Although exploratory, several of these thematic results showed that the life review method appears to offer a means to facilitate personal development in students as a component of counsellor training.

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