Submission note: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Science (Counselling and Psychotherapy) [to the] School of Public Health and Human Biosciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
This study is an investigation of the experiences of Master of Counselling and Human Services students at La Trobe University learning the “Process-Experiential/ Emotion-Focused” method of therapy (PE–EFT). This humanistic therapeutic model, developed by Robert Elliott, Leslie Greenberg and their colleagues, is a dialectical constructivist approach that is emotion-focused and founded on person-centred principles. The training involved a large experiential component. The topic was explored with a small group of former students, following a cooperative inquiry methodology. This qualitative approach respects multiple ways of knowing in coming to themes and in analysing the discussions. Fourteen key topics of discussion were identified. The themes that emerged revealed the sorts of challenges that might be expected when learning a new therapeutic modality that is both intellectually and emotionally demanding. These included difficulties with understanding the theory and with coming to use it fluently. However, the experiential element to the training, and particularly its emotion-focused aspect, meant that much discussion related to experiences that are more characteristic of counselling or group therapy. Consequently, these therapeutic struggles overlie the adult learning experience. The results were examined in the light of theories of adult development, particularly Robert Kegan’s developmental theory, theories of personal transformation and transformative education, and the person-centred principles of Carl Rogers. PE–EFT was recognised as requiring an advanced stage of development to grasp and use it fully. Hence, for some this counsellor education required growth in mental and emotional complexity, and many difficulties were encountered during this process. Loss, struggle, uncertainty and ambiguity were features of that experience. However, self-actualising or individuating processes were also evident in the course of the training. All these challenges needed to be held and managed by the teacher, along with the imparting of new knowledge. This multi-disciplinary investigation explores these matters in detail.
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