Spirituality and identity formation of registered counsellors specializing in Gestalt Play therapy
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Registered counsellors are mid-level professionals, second to psychologists, within the profession of psychology within South Africa. The category of registered counsellors was developed with the view to meet the needs of the previously disadvantaged communities through providing basic psychological services. Registered counsellors are to complete a four year B.Psych or equivalent degree and an internship. Their counselling tasks are statutorily defined within a scope of practice. The deployment of registered counsellors within the public health system have not yet met desired expectations due to factors such as a lack of job creation and early training models which included one-on-one intervention models. Training curriculums as well as the scope of practice are currently under revision. To date the majority of registered counsellors who are working in the profession have found employment within the educational systems or private practice. Some registered counsellors have completed the Masters degree in Gestalt Play therapy – an educational route, now closed to registered counsellors. This form of training from within the social work field does not expand the registered counsellor's scope of practice. After exploring experiences and challenges through a colloquium, a convenience sample was drawn from current and past students and twenty-two participants completed semi-structured questionnaires. Data was analysed using ATLAS.ti. The storied accounts of participants within this study reveal that the majority experience their professional identities as negative, for instance “at the bottom of the food chain” or “non-existent.” Many hoped that the training in Gestalt play therapy would not only equip them to work with children, but would assist them to find a more esteemed place within the profession. The majority of participants experienced either a “calling orientation” towards their work, followed by a group of career orientated individuals. Within both groups there are members who experience a calling of a transcendental nature. Counsellors who feel called to making a difference or helping others within the profession were found to be challenged in their spirituality and identity, when their envisioned career paths within the profession of Psychology, were blocked. Christian believers within this sample questioned their relationship with God as well as His will for their lives. One participant wished that she had a form of faith that could bring meaning to the difficulties she has experienced. It appears that a significant number within this sub-population intended to (and some still do) become psychologists but have been prevented from doing so due to the small number of applicants that are selected yearly in comparison to the demand for training. Career counselling suggestions from literature that foster the making of meaning, work adjustment and contribute to the development of callings, were used together with Gestalt theory to develop experiential reflections as an intervention. Preliminary findings suggest that they may be helpful to registered counsellors in terms of the challenges described. These findings (and suggestions) were used within the development of a pastoral counselling intervention model. This model is based upon the reformist theological tradition and strands of Gestalt theory have been woven into it. The addressing of professional identity development difficulties and challenged callings within a field of faith, may stir up hope, create new meaning and foster spiritual growth, leading to more fulfilled lives in the presence of God.
- Theology