Title page for ETD etd-08182005-154110

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Du Preez, Elizabeth
URN etd-08182005-154110
Document Title The social construction of counsellor identity in a South African context
Degree PhD (Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Prof V Roos
  • analysis of visual material
  • narrative analysis
  • referential research context
  • counsellor identity
  • social constructionism in psychology
  • collaborative knowledge production
  • postmodern educational practices
  • narrative therapy
  • process-based evaluation
  • training of counselors
  • identity construction
Date 2004-10-09
Availability unrestricted
During the past ten years the changing sociopolitical context in South Africa challenged mental health services to re-position themselves in order to stay relevant to specific contextual demands. The field of psychology has also been introduced to the application of postmodern principles in counselling and training practices internationally and nationally, which promised exciting alternative avenues for many practitioners and clients.

In reading the literature on the possible opportunities of applying postmodern principles to psychological and educational practices, it became clear that the relationship between counsellors/clients and trainers/students can be a collaborative co-construction of knowledge production. Existing literature on current training practices however reflects a fragmented picture, in which the orientation, content and pedagogy are not consistently aligned with an epistemology and practice. Postmodern literature on the notion of “identity/self” as the narration of a multilevelled construct is used to conceptualise training contexts as contexts that provide students with certain narratives with which they can construct their counsellor identities.

The aim of the research is to story the construction of counsellor identity through the application of narrative therapy within a learning model. Text production was imbedded in a referential research context which is defined as a context of the following relational positionings: narrative counsellor, trainer, researcher, students and participants. The contribution of this context towards the construction of counsellor identity is explored through engaging in and narrative analysis of written conversations, journals and visual projects of students who engaged in a training context. Through the narrative analysis process, temporal dimension story grids were developed for the written conversations and training journals and the visual projects were analysed according to denotational and higher signification inventories.

Narratives that were co-created in the training context include that of uncertainty, self-awareness, growth, change, hope and respect for individual life narratives, which also contributed to the process of the construction of counsellor identity. These are all familiar narratives that exist in the South African context as we live in a country that is in a continuous process of change and where certainty is an elusive concept.

On the basis of the narrative themes that emerged, guidelines were developed for creating training contexts that could facilitate the construction of a counsellor identity that is of relevance within the changing South African context. These guidelines include a repositioning in the trainer/student relationship; using externalising language practices to facilitate the co-construction of knowledge through a critical engagement with the learning material and a conceptualisation of evaluation as a process based activity rather than an outcome based activity.

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