How do counselling trainees describe group process and does this change over time?

Rick Murphy*, Matt Schofield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Personal development groups or “group processes” are used in most counselling and psychotherapy trainings, but little is understood about how trainees change in their experience and descriptions of them over time. This study collected qualitative surveys (N = 70) from two groups of master's students (N = 35), at the mid- and end point of their first year of counselling training, to find out whether their descriptions of group process changed. We used content analysis to study the most common words and phrases used by trainee counsellors to describe group process and to monitor how positive, neutral and negative their descriptions were over time. We found a significant difference in the vocabulary and the ratio of positive to negative descriptions of group process at the midpoint of term, depending on the group the trainees were assigned to, with a levelling out of vocabulary words and positive and negative descriptions over time, converging towards a 70%–80% positive point at the end of term. Our results indicate that process groups need time to develop trainees above a positive threshold, by balancing group bonding against an ability to challenge and learn from difference, because individuals and groups start at different points in relation to their readiness and capacity for personal development. Further research should explore facilitation and trainee variables, as well as the impact of process groups on students' well-being, because, while most of our students positively described the process, an important minority of students described negative experiences that were unresolved at the end of the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Early online date7 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2023


  • content analysis
  • counselling and psychotherapy
  • counselling training
  • group process
  • personal development groups


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