The Elephant in the Office: A Phenomenological Study of Spirituality-informed Student Therapists' Feelings of Incompetence in Early Therapeutic Encounters

  • Author / Creator
    Sherry Kim Bilida
  • This phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of spiritually-informed student therapists’ feelings of incompetence (FOI) in early therapeutic encounters. This aim was achieved by conducting two rounds of semi-structured interviews with three student therapists, who identify as spiritually-focused practitioners. Together, with field notes, researcher’s reflections and the reviewed literature, four major themes were revealed. Key findings included: 1) Uncertainty is certain, where somatic symptoms were indicators of ambiguous feelings. This theme also explored uncertainty as feeling powerless and experiences of uncertainty in supervision. Loneliness, isolation, and the impact of personal uncertainties completed the first theme. 2) The game-changer syndrome captures student therapists’ unrealistic expectations for their clients. This theme includes a discussion on perfectionism and comparison as subsets of this condition. 3) Practicing with presence illuminates the role of silence in attaining deeper therapeutic connections, commonly experienced by participants. 4) Therapists as conduits for the Divine is a conversation of spirituality’s role in alleviating feelings of incompetence. The principal conclusion was for educators, supervisors, students and colleagues to engage in a dialogue about these realities and ultimately mitigate these feelings of incompetence.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Ms. Rita Ann Martino
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Amanda Radil, PhD(Cand)
    • Dr. Heather Jamieson