• A qualitative study of counsellors’ experiences and perceptions of the evolving political and professional environment

      Parnell, Tony; Mintz, Rita; Johnson, Geraldine (University of Chester, 2013-12)
      Since the early 1990s, the counsellor’s world has become increasing professionalised and politicised requiring counsellors to fulfill ever more increasing obligations and responsibilities in order to practice. Counsellors undergo extensive training, adopt ‘ethical frameworks for practice’, are insured for purpose, commit to regular supervision and undergo regular CPD. They often volunteer or work with marginalised clients from some of the hardest to reach communities. There is a huge demand for counselling, yet career prospects for counsellors are both bleak and at the mercy of government policy and national economics. Using the data from 8 semi-structured interviews, this qualitative, phenomenological research explored counsellors’ experiences and perceptions of the evolving political and professional climate. The data was transcribed and analysed using the constant comparative method and found counsellors entered training from a position of confidence believing themselves to be the right type of person for a career in counselling. However, the training process was difficult to manage, with many strands to the learning and they felt unsupported and overwhelmed. Counsellors had polarised experiences of placements, finding unprofessional practice in some placements, whilst others were reported to be very professional, exceptionally well run and emotionally supportive to them. Counsellors struggled to find paid employment, exacerbated by government’s massive funding of IAPT to the Health Service. They saw their own voluntary organisations lose funding, apply redundancy measures and reduce counsellor delivery hours. The government’s planned statutory regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists however, was viewed with optimism, anticipating that it would provide them the necessary validity to work professionally as a counsellor. The research offers the opportunity for a longitudinal study, to explore participants’ existing experience within the current political and professional climate. It also contributes to the body of research tracking the trajectory of the political and professional development of the counselling profession.