A Narrative Inquiry into Counsellor Trainees' Experiences of Working with Trauma

  • Author / Creator
    Dayal, Helena
  • With the increased attention paid towards the effects of trauma work on counsellors and psychologists in the last 35 years, a singular narrative has emerged that has deemed it a risky practice, leaving one susceptible to vicarious trauma, burnout, compassion fatigue, and a number of other possible negative consequences, and leaving very little space for alternative stories. From this dominant narrative, and my personal experiences during counsellor training, the research puzzle emerged. Coming alongside three counsellor trainees in a PhD counselling psychology program in Canada, I inquired into counsellor trainees’ experiences of working with trauma, while paying attention to social, cultural, institutional, and familial narratives (Clandinin & Rosiek, 2007) within which our experiences are nested. Attending to earlier landscapes that have shaped our views of trauma and trauma work, and experiences within and outside counsellor education programs, we co-composed narrative accounts to build understanding of our experiences. I explored with participants, “how have your past experiences shaped the way you approach trauma survivors? How have you been shaped by your experiences of working with trauma survivors?” Learning about the storied experiences of counsellor trainees was done with the aim of understanding how counsellor training programs can better facilitate personal and professional growth and development in counsellor trainees, and support students as they begin to learn about and encounter clients who have experienced trauma. Drawing on narrative inquiry, and the understanding that we lead storied lives (Connelly & Clandinin, 2006), I understand that individuals shape their lives through stories they live and tell and that are told about them and others. Situating our experiences in the three-dimensional narrative inquiry space (sociality, temporality, and place), (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), opened up possibilities to ground our experiences contextually, and attend to different aspects of our experiences that shaped how we each came to learn and understand trauma as it lived in our own lives and the lives of our clients.
    From looking across the stories of participants emerged four narrative threads: (1) coming to construct what it means to have experienced trauma in different ways; (2) using the trauma lens to reflect on our own lives; (3) storying trauma into our personal and professional lives; and (4) making sense of trauma and vicarious trauma in the silences. Identifying these threads brought to light important considerations for how we teach about trauma and trauma work within counsellor education programs. They opened up new wonders and questions about trauma and vicarious trauma that would be applicable for consideration by professors in counsellor education programs, counsellor trainees, and clinical supervisors.
    The findings elucidated the importance of finding spaces to share stories within counsellor education programs, engaging in discussions about boundaries in counselling work, and attending to intersecting identities of counsellor trainees. Implications for supervision were also discussed, including defining the scope of supervision and creating spaces for discussions about the effects of trauma work. Additionally, the many misconceptions about vicarious trauma were notable and provided a clear and necessary need for improvement in teaching and supervision in counsellor training programs. Attending to these various aspects within counsellor training programs is pivotal towards heping students manage distress in their work and better prepare as they enter the field and engage in trauma work.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.