Problem Statement: The counseling profession requires specific education and training to equip counselor trainees with necessary knowledge and skills. Therefore, they are required not only to acquire theoretical knowledge but also to integrate it into practice. Especially, the integration of theoretical knowledge into practice is optimally possible with practicum. Although practicum provides a context such integration, it also leads to some negative thoughts and feelings among trainees. Experiencing anxiety and other feelings of incompetence impedes their professional development. Therefore, the critical task is to enable them to cope with negative feelings and experiences such as anxiety during their training process. In this context, taking account trainees‘ experiences and feelings as counselors during the formal education process makes important contributions to their personal and professional development.
Purpose of Study: To support the development of counselor trainees and make their educational and training processes fully functional, understanding the nature and antecedents of these negative experiences and feelings becomes critical. This study was conducted to understand the counselor trainees‘ predictions about their experiences as counselors during practicum course and to reveal the sources of feelings related to these predictions.
Methods: This research was a qualitative study based on focus group interviews. The researcher and two research assistants conducted interviews with two groups consisting of a total of 13 trainees taking an Individual Counseling Practicum Course. Open-ended questions were asked during interviews. Data was analyzed by means of inductive analysis.
Findings and Results: As a result of the inductive analysis, four main themes of Counselor Trainees‘ Feelings, Professional Practice Issues in the Counseling Process, Evaluation Anxiety, and Supervision emerged. When counselor trainees‘ feelings about practices were examined, feelings of confusion, anxiety, excitement, curiosity, and fear were reported. Most of their fear and anxiety was explained in terms of professional practice issues such as being professional, managing the counseling process, etc. Evaluation anxiety was revealed as another source of the trainees‘ negative feelings, as they were preoccupied with being good counselors. The supervision process was evaluated more positively.
Conclusions and Recommendations: Findings revealed counselor trainees‘ views on what they believed they would experience and feel with regard to practicum before this course. It was found that trainees were anxious and worried due to the ambiguities of practicum experience. Based on these findings, in order to provide better counselor trainee education and more effective psychological counseling services, carefully dealing with incompetence feelings and their sources is proposed. Although this study reveals important findings about trainees, it has some limitations. This study was carried out as a qualitative study with a limited number of participants. Therefore, similar studies should be conducted with larger groups. In later studies, diary use and observations can be employed for data triangulation. Longitudinal studies can be conducted to understand deeply trainees‘ feelings throughout the professional developmental process.
Keywords: Counselor training, counselor‘s professional development, counselor trainees‘ anxiety, counselor trainees‘ feelings of incompetence