Conceptualization of therapeutic change processes in the early stages of counselor training



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This study discusses schema knowledge as it relates to counselor training, with an emphasis on procedural versus declarative knowledge, assimilation versus accommodation of counseling knowledge, and conceptualization of general change processes versus specific therapy problems. Content analysis and a group concept mapping strategy were used to explore counseling psychology students' conceptualizations of therapeutic change processes at three points in doctoral training (i.e., first week, second semester, end of the third year). At the beginning of training, the student group conceptualized general change processes mostly in terms of intrinsic features of the therapeutic enterprise and therapy goals. Although the role of the therapist as a professionally informed helper was also emphasized, concepts representing the intentional actions of therapy participants were highly ambiguous. In the second semester, the student group's conceptualization of general change processes reflected a distinct emphasis on the client, framed mostly in terms of therapy goals. Explicit references to the therapist were conspicuously absent in the group's descriptions of change processes and therapeutic procedures were represented mostly by undifferentiated learning concepts. In the third year of doctoral training the group's conceptualization of general change processes reflected a more balanced representation of (a) therapist and client concepts, and (b) procedural and goal concepts. Although conceptual differentiation and integration appeared to have occurred in the intervals preceding the second semester and third year of training, the group's conceptualizations of general change processes were characterized by a similar level of organizational complexity across all three data collection periods. By comparison, the group's conceptualization of a specific therapy case (introduced at the third data collection period) appeared more complex both in terms of (a) the differentiation and integration of procedural concepts, and (b) organizational complexity of change concepts. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for facilitating, evaluating, and investigating schema knowledge in counselor training using inquiry-oriented methods such as concept mapping.



Mental health counselors -- Training of