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The experience of counsellor trainees from non-Western cultures Chen, Charles Pintang

Abstract

Following a qualitative research frame, this study used a case study approach to describe and understand the life career experience of counsellor trainees' from Non-Western Culture (NWC). An ethnographic or in-depth interview methodology was utilized to acquire narrative data that was re-written as an analytical description of this particular experience. Eight NWC counsellor trainees who were studying in a Canadian university, and who were originally from countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, participated in this study. The interviews became the primary source of information upon which an individual story was developed. After being validated by the respective participants/informants, the major themes highlighting the turning points and critical plots of the eight individual narratives were synthesized into a general narrative. This general narrative reflected both the commonly-shared and varied experiences and perspectives of these individuals during the transition period. Becoming engaged in counsellor training was not an event, but rather a process over time which often started when the NWC trainees seriously considered the need for change in their lives. They defined their options, and decided to either immigrate to, or study in Canada. They then took concrete action to implement their plans. The NWC trainees endeavoured to make an initial adjustment after coming to Canada. Most of them coped with many issues and challenges in adapting to the sociocultural environment of the host country, while searching for the best life career direction. Acquiring counsellor training appeared to be a viable career path and they actively pursued this new career option. The concluding part of the narrative described the NWC trainees' engagement in professional training in counselling psychology and counsellor education. The trainees were committed to this new career goal, aiming at graduate level training. They dealt with a series of emerging issues and challenges including English language difficulty, adjustment to the new educational system, and other dynamics in the training process. The trainees also had to cope with issues such as family and financial concerns. These issues interacted with their academic and professional training. Having gained a sense of personal growth, the trainees found their involvement in counselling training both challenging and inspiring. Not only did their training provide them with a deep experience of selfexploration and self-understanding, it also helped them project their future career plans. This study generated several theoretical implications. It supported the three broadly-defined theoretical perspectives of career development, i.e., career as life process, career as individual agency, and career as meaning making. The study also echoed the three major constructs that compose the transition of adult learners' lives when they return to universities for continuing education. These three aspects included identity negotiation, social connectedness, and academic competence. With regard to cross-cultural adjustment, the study offered some support for the common factors affecting NWC students' cross-cultural iv adjustment in colleges and universities in North America but also was at variance with some of the literature regarding the problem of racism and prejudice. The implications for practice focused on a comprehensive helping approach addressing both the psychological and the tangible needs of NWC counsellor trainees. Aiming at building a positive and supportive learning climate, such implications included the need to enhance the trainees' personal agency, to avoid failure of communication, to use constructive feedback, to understand and address special needs, and to remain open and flexible while training and supervising NWC trainees. Several implications for future research were discussed. They included consideration of the relevance of the narrative approach in related studies, as well as an exploration of the broader applicability and representativeness of the evidence presented in the current study.

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