Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Ali, Saba R

First Committee Member

Westefeld, John S

Second Committee Member

Liu, William M

Third Committee Member

Nicpon, Megan Foley

Fourth Committee Member

Thomas, Volker K


Counseling psychology doctoral trainees’ satisfaction with their clinical methods training is an important predictor of their self-efficacy as counselors, persistence in graduate programs, and probability of practicing psychotherapy in their careers (Fernando &Hulse-Killacky, 2005; Hadjipavlou &Ogrodniczuk, 2007; Morton &;Worthley, 1995). Much of the extant literature related to assessing psychology graduate students’ satisfaction with their training has focused on supervision processes and has not adequately assessed other elements of training such as coursework, clinical experiences, and the learning contexts of practicum sites and program settings. Additionally, the available research is largely quantitative data based on geographically restricted samples that does not adequately explain reasons for trainees’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

The purpose of the present study was to broadly identify factors that contribute to counseling psychology doctoral students’ satisfaction with their clinical methods training in coursework, clinical experiences, supervision, and practicum and program contexts. Eight advanced doctoral trainees from APA-accredited programs in counseling psychology were interviewed about their satisfaction with their training experiences. Data was analyzed using Consensual Qualitative Research (Hill, 2012). Results indicated that trainees generally entered programs with broad/unclear expectations, but some identified preferences for practicum settings, developing clinical skills, learning approaches to psychotherapy, and training in multicultural competence. Participants expressed higher satisfaction with courses that included multicultural content, training in theoretical approaches to therapy, and clinically-applicable content using teaching methods that included combining lecture with dialogue and experiential exercises. Diversity in clients’ demographics, presenting concerns, therapeutic modalities, and distress levels contributed to higher satisfaction with clinical experiences. Additionally, participants expressed their value for the opportunity to accrue client contact towards internship requirements. Strong supervisory relationships were most frequently identified as contributing to participants’ satisfaction with supervision. Participants expressed highest satisfaction with supervisors who conveyed care and support; were respectful, invested, competent, and experienced; provided new learning and feedback; and demonstrated multicultural competence. Practicum sites which provided an appropriate balance of training and clinical work, met trainees’ expectations for developmentally-appropriate training and clinical experiences, and fostered positive relationships between trainees and competent, invested staff members were described to produce highest satisfaction. Participants also expressed highest satisfaction when they had open, safe interpersonal relationships with faculty and felt secure in their ability to secure practicum placements in a range of settings. All participants stated they would feel more satisfied with their programs if more courses were available, but opinions varied as to the type of additional training desired. Findings are considered from the perspective of experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984) and situated learning theory (Lave &Wenger, 1991). Implications for program faculty, practicum staff, and future research are discussed.

Public Abstract

In this study, eight doctoral students in counseling psychology were interviewed about their satisfaction with the training provided by their programs. Since prior research has focused primarily on students’ views of the supervision they receive, participants in this study were also asked about their opinions of their classes, the psychological services they provided as practicum students, and their views of their practicum sites and training programs. The interview transcripts were discussed by a team of researchers who identified themes in participants’ responses. Participants felt more satisfied with classes where they learned theories and techniques about psychotherapy and working with culturally diverse people. They also valued combining course lectures with more active methods of learning, such as discussions or in-class exercises. In their clinical work, participants valued working with a wide range of clients for a significant amount of time. Participants expressed high satisfaction in relationships with supervisors who were caring, supportive, and safe, who helped them learn, and who were competent and ethical. More satisfactory practicum sites were described as providing a good balance of clinical work and training which suited the participants’ expectations for the site. Participants also valued strong relationships with practicum site staff and program faculty and being able to participate in a wide range of practicum sites. All participants recommended additional course offerings from programs to further improve their satisfaction with their training.


publicabstract, clinical methods training, counselor trainees, didactic training, experiential training, satisfaction, supervision


ix, 207 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 194-207).


Copyright 2015 Kristen Ann Menke