Monday, June 18, 2007

A Few Modest Proposals for the Counselling Diploma Courses

Entry for 18 June 2007:

When I started here at the University of Strathclyde, I realized that I would need to spend much of my first year observing how things are done, before making serious proposals for doing things differently. It has proved to be somewhat difficult at times for me to hold myself back, as my supervision group found, but mostly I have asked lots of questions and tried to fit in.

Now, however, I have followed the training through a yearly cycle, and am preparing for my second post-course Diploma team meeting. So the question is, what changes do I think are called for? Here is an initial list, organized by course component:

A. Research Training:
1. Increase the amount of research input from 15 to 30 hours.
I think this is important for several reasons: (a) Research training is going to be a much more important part of training under counselling regulation; it is important to begin the process now in order to be able to do it more gradually. (b) I don’t think that we are doing of good job preparing students for doing an MSc thesis/dissertation; more input would help with this. (c) A key issue for teaching research on the diploma course is that many students have no previous training in research, including statistics; furthermore, many are suspicious or fearful of math. This means that it is important to back up and address basic issues of research readiness, which could be called “pre-research” (like “pre-therapy”). Pre-research training needs to explores attitudes toward research, help students locate their research curiosity, and generally deal with fears and anxieties in order to help students develop an open relationship with research. All research inputs should be experientially grounded, e.g., teach quantitative research via filling out, scoring, and interpreting the Strathclyde Inventory. It would be a good idea for Research training to be connected to ongoing research projects in the Counselling Unit, including the Diploma Course Outcome Study, which presumably many of the students will be taking part in next year.

2. Add some kind of systematic data collection to the Paper 4 requirement, of the student’s choosing (could be qualitative or quantitative or both).

3. Make the research study group a formal, graded assignment.

4. Encourage (but don’t require) students to take part in the various research protocols at the Counselling Unit.

B. Taught Inputs and workshops:
4. Make the other therapy orientation group presentations a group assignment for everyone.

5. Make consistent, general use of a variety of video- and live examples, for practically all inputs, including theory inputs.

6. Add inputs on counselor response modes (more commonly known as “skills”), integrating these with relationship attitudes and experiences.

C. Experiential elements:
7. Focus initial skill training on specific counselor response modes and processes in a structured sequence (e.g., different types of empathy, tasks); then continue skill training throughout the course as part of supervision groups.

8. Make intentional rather than unstructured use of the Large Group; continue the process of clarifying the purpose and functions (“tasks”) of the Large Group; e.g., relational ruptures work; group problem-solving; dealing with endings.

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