The aim of this qualitative research study is to determine the affects of personal therapy on trainee counsellors. Five trainee counsellors will be interviewed to see what the impact of having to undertake mandatory personal therapy as part of their foundation degree course has had on them. Semi-structured interviews will be used, then thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) will be used to analyse these findings. The focus of the research will be to see how personal therapy has affected the trainees financially, emotionally, managing their time to attend sessions and any other ways in which it might have affected them.


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Some studies have been undertaken investigating the affects of personal therapy on trainee counsellors. The research on therapists’ experience of personal therapy: A descriptive phenomenological study by Oteiza, V (2010) stated that participants acknowledged a positive response to personal therapy and stated that eight out of ten participants found that fifty hours of therapy was not long enough. The limitations of this study were the fact that all counsellors had at least fifteen years experience and were all Spanish. This for me suggested further investigation in to trainee experience was needed.

Another study which was investigated was a qualitative study into the experience of mandatory personal therapy during training by Murphy, D (2005) Murphy investigated the involvement of personal therapy on the trainee counsellor’s emerging processes in particular their: “reflexivity, growth, authenticity and prolongation” Murphy (2005). Once again he found positive results of therapy and stated that although forty hours mandatory therapy is effective it would be useful to have personal therapy throughout the degree course. From my personal experience I felt that I agreed with Murphy and Oteiza that more than forty hours personal therapy would help trainee counsellors personal growth.

Lastly, I investigated Haenisch’ (2011) study of how compulsory therapy during counselling training influences personal and professional development. Haenisch found that although the personal therapy was mandatory and some counsellors did not like the fact that the therapy was dictated to them. Again participants found it to be positive. After reviewing the research papers it was found that the participants reported positive results. I wandered whether this was due to the way in which the questions were asked or if participants felt pressured in to stating only positive answers or if only participants who had had positive experiences came forward.


This topic is of particular personal interest to myself as I want to know how mandatory personal therapy has affected trainee counsellors if at all. Although, I have had a positive experience initially the financial burden and extra hours put me off from starting in the beginning of my second year. If I had been aware of the advantages before, this is something I felt I should have started in the beginning of my second year. As fellow students started their personal therapy, I heard negative and positive experiences with different counsellors; I felt it was important to find the right counsellor.


A qualitative interview-based research method using thematic analysis was decided upon as the most appropriate method by Braun and Clarke (2006 p.77). The researcher will interview participants in a semi-structured interview all interviews will be recorded and transcribed accurately in order to keep the integrity of the study and not to lose any subjective matter from the client. According to Mcleod (2006 p.30) “each hour will take 4 hrs to transcribe”. This is useful to know at the design stage to allow for extra time for the transcribing. The results will then be analysed from the recordings looking for common themes participants mention as important to them and allowing themes to emerge.


Five participants will be chosen as in qualitative research five is an appropriate number to be able to show effective results. I would like to use five different counselling trainees from five different places of study or universities but all studying a foundation degree in counselling and all trainees are third year students. All participants should also have started their placements. Participants’ ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, social class and age will be noted but not specified in this research project. Although this would be of interest and can be used for further research as greater diversity of participants would be better. Also the type of personal therapy undertaken will also be noted, whether it is psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural or any other type.


A digital dictaphone will be used to record all interviews which will then be deleted after the data has been analysed. An ethical approval form provided by Newman University College Supervisor will be used and a consent form for each participant. The researcher will have a list of questions (attached in the appendix) to keep focus during the interview however; freelance questions will also be asked depending on each interview (the questions may be altered after the initial pilot).


I will be adhering to Bonds ethical guidelines (2004) and informing participants that they can, at any time refuse to continue or answer questions. These guidelines are in place to ensure participants do not feel pressured in to continuing with the interview or any aspect of it if they do not feel comfortable discussing it. It will also hopefully create an understanding and a bond between the interviewer and interviewee. Initially, a pilot will be carried out by a researcher to make sure the interview questions are appropriate. All participants will then sign a consent form and will be made aware that confidentiality will be used to conceal their identity. Five interviews will be carried out by the researcher, in private rooms at Newman University College or onsite at the different universities. Each interview will last 30 minutes and will be recorded by the Dictaphone. The recording will then be transcribed, and analysed looking for the main themes, and then finally further analyses will be done to investigate common themes.


Thematic analysis will be used as this is a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within data. It organises and describes the data in detail. “However, frequently if goes further than this, and interprets various aspects of the research topic” (Boyatzis,1998; Roulston, 2001) (Braun & Clark, 2006).

Discussion and Limitations

I expect the results to be positive as I believe that personal therapy only helps a trainee counsellor to grow and explore their own experiences. Personal therapy has given me an insight in to my clients and the work I do with them. Although at present I my clients do not pay for therapy and so they are not faced with the constraints of financial hardship, however, my clients have to juggle their time between work and coming to therapy.

According to King (2011) personal therapy increases trainee counsellors self awareness giving them the opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the counselling experience their clients may be experiencing. I feel that although the extra time and finances dedicated to therapy puts an extra strain on trainee counsellors the rewards are greater. However, it is of utmost importance to find a counsellor that is suited to you. As the most important part of the process is the therapeutic relationship, it is important to a bond with your counsellor.

This is a short study in to personal therapy and has its limitations. There are many other factors that still need to be investigated further. According to McLeod (1994) the relevance for counselling of social class, ethnicity, religious orientation and sexual orientation, the existence of ineffective or harmful practitioners and organisational influences on counselling practice also need to be addressed. This is something I would like to investigate further. As yet I have not come across a study that looks specifically at the above in detail.

In this study this is not something I can fully assess within the time constraints of the proposal as I feel it will take longer than six months. Participants would need to be carefully selected and this process in itself could easily take six months. As there are fewer numbers of ethnic minorities training as counsellors although the numbers are growing and one would hope in future a diverse ethnic sample could be achieved.


Braun, Virginia and Clarke, Victoria (2006) ‘Using thematic analysis in psychology’, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3: 77-101. Available at: http://www.QualResearchPych.com (Accessed 29 December 2011).

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Rugby: BACP; 2004. www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework

Bond, Tim (2004) Ethical guidelines for researching counselling and psychotherapy. Rugby: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Lutterworth: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Haenisch, Carmen Von (2011) ‘How did compulsory therapy during counselling training influence personal and professional development?’, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 11 (2).148-155.

King, Gail (2011) ‘Psychodynamic therapists’dilemmas in providing personal therapy to therapists in training: An exploratory study, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 11 (3).186-195

McLeod, J. (2003) Doing Counselling Research. 2nd edn. Sage Publications Ltd: London.

Murphy, David.(2005)” A qualitative study into the experience of mandatory personal therapy during training”, Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, Vol 5(1). 27-32.

Oteiza, Vicky (2010) Therapist’s experience of personal therapy: a descriptive phenomenological study, Counselling ; Psychotherapy Research – Vol 10 (3). 222-228

Sanders, P. and Wilkins, P. (2010) First Steps in Practitioner Research. PCCS Books.


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