Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Counselling

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr George E Trippe

Second Supervisor

Professor Richard Berlach


This research is a phenomenological study investigating the meaning and personal significance of the small group experience (personal growth) for a single cohort of eight mature-age graduates (male and female) who completed the Bachelor of Counselling degree at The University of Notre Dame Australia in the years 2005 and 2006. Two facilitators of these personal growth groups were interviewed, as were two agency supervisors who had access to these graduates during their clinical practice.

The research used qualitative methods in the collection of data. A semi-structured interview was conducted with purposefully selected participants to determine their understanding of the significance and meaning of experiential group participation. Methodology harnessed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis [IPA] as described by Smith (2003).

By investigating the phenomenon of the small group experience in counsellor training, greater understanding of its value or usefulness is highlighted. The findings of this qualitative study revealed the existence of the following themes: self-awareness; change; vulnerabilities; emotional experience; support; self-disclosure; feedback; challenges; risks; safety; facilitators; and the link to practice. The implications of these themes for counsellor education are discussed and suggestions for further research are offered.

These findings contribute to discussion on counsellor education and training of professional counsellors and therapists in Australia, in an attempt to improve the overall quality of members entering this very important and growing caring profession.

This thesis is presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Counselling