Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Comparing Notes: Consultation between Strathclyde and East Anglia Counselling Diploma Courses

Entry for 13 February 2007:

The person-centred postgraduate diploma courses at the Universities of Strathclyde (Glasgow) in and East Anglia (in Norwich) grew out of the partnership of Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne, who together organized the earliest PCA training courses in the UK, about 20 years ago. These early training courses developed at about the same time that Greenberg, Rice and I were developing the Process-Experiential (not also known as Emotion-Focused) therapy approach in the late 1980's. About 15 years ago, the two courses at Strathclyde and East Anglia were founded, and from this common source, have been developing in parallel ever since.

Tracey Saunders, director of our diploma courses, is a graduate of the East Anglia program and through her contacts with Judy Moore, the current Director of Counselling at East Anglia, arranged a joint consultation visit between the academic staff of the two programs. She and her colleague, Ian Draper, their diploma course director, thus flew up from Norwich this morning to spend the afternoon and evening comparing and contrasting the two programs and discussing issues, problems and ideas for improving our programs.

Over the past 15 years, starting from a similar place but reflecting the personalities and interests of their founders and responding to their local community and academic environments, the two program have evolved somewhat differently, to the point that we decided that it was time for a serious dialogue. Some of these differences are structural and less interesting (although still consequential), but others are quite obviously deserving of in-depth discussion; these include:

1. EAU has explicitly added an experiential (focusing and PE therapy) element to their training, including offering focusing training on a weekly basis throughout the training year. Such elements are only now beginning to creep into the curriculum of the courses here, so that the Strathclyde program as a whole remains fairly classical.

2. At Strathclyde, we have developed a network of possible placements or sites where students can seek counselling experience (unpaid); students are then supposed to go out and arrange to work at one of these sites. EAU has had a collection of captive sites for their students, but changes in the NHS have cost them most of these, so they are now looking for alternatives. We made suggestions for them to follow up, such as starting a research clinic and having students work with established solo counsellors or groups of counsellors in their practices.

3. East Anglia has more students continue on to take their MA degree (a large majority); at Strathclyde only about 10% of students continue on to the masters. We learned that the biggest difference was that students at East Anglia are accepted into a 2 years Diploma (which they can opt out of), while Strathclyde students have to actively and separately apply to the MSc course.

4. There is no research training in the first (diploma) year of the training at East Anglia; this is all done in year two, the MA year, to the tune of a 60 hour module. At Strathclyde, we begin research input in the first term of the diploma year (15 hours, roughly), but don’t provide much input during the MSc course. As we talked, it became clear that neither of these extremes is ideal. I suggested “an hour a week for research” throughout the diploma year, culminating in a research proposal assignment toward the during Term 3, and I expressed my desire for more systematic input on research during the MSc course, in addition to the emerging model of research group supervision/support that Brian Rodgers and I are developing.

And so on, pretty much all afternoon and much of dinner tonight. This visit was so interesting and inspiring that it makes me wonder (a) why we didn’t do this years ago; and (b) why there isn’t an organization of person-centred training organizations with yearly mini-conferences. Certainly a lot to think about!

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