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Counsellor development in the school setting : a narrative study



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The purpose of this study was to describe school counsellor development, paying particular attention to (a) what experiences school counsellors identify as significant markers in the development of their professional beliefs and practices, and (b) how such events come to attain their significance. Narrative methodology was utilized, with the intent of eliciting storied material and presenting the findings in storied format. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with four participants: two school counsellors and two school social workers. A narrative was composed for each participant based on the researcher’s analysis of the interview transcripts. The researcher discussed the individual participants’ contributions to the research questions as well as some emergent across-cases themes. Participants identified a wide range of experiences that had impacted upon their personal and professional development. There were several factors contributing to an experience’s significance: (a) emotional intensity, (b) readiness to learn, (c) goodness of fit, (d) positive reinforcement, and (e) cognitive accommodation. Across-cases themes with reference to critical experiences included the influence of childhood, the challenging or painful nature of incidents, and the simultaneous strength and vulnerability of empathy. Issues in the practice of school counselling included a necessarily remedial focus, insufficient supervision, and interventions beyond counselling. Self-care practices and metaphors of counselling also frequently appeared in the narratives.The narrative design of this study allowed for detailed descriptions of experiences that underlie general developmental trends identified in the counsellor development literature. The data suggested that school counsellors develop in much the same way as the wider counsellor population. However, they face impediments to optimal professional development in the form of excessive caseloads, inadequate supervision, and role confusion. Implications for future research and the practice of school counselling are discussed.



critical incidents, narrative inquiry



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Psychology and Special Education


Educational Psychology and Special Education


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