Marriage and Family Therapist Interns' Experiences of Growth


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Virginia Tech


In this study, I explored marriage and family therapist interns' growth experiences, both personal and professional, and the interplay between them. Participants discussed, using Internet discussion board and chat room formats, different kinds of personal experiences that influenced their clinical growth (as well as the reverse) and how these growth processes came about. Family systems theory provided the theoretical framework and Constructivism theory guided the manner in which the study was conducted. Thirteen marriage and family therapist interns from ten accredited MFT programs participated in the discussion board portion of the study. During the chat room interview, which took place at the end of the study, four participants elaborated upon their growth experiences and the reciprocal influence between their personal and professional lives.

This study highlighted numerous personal, clinical, and professional growth experiences that played significant roles in the participants' lives. Participants identified experiences that were categorized as either "sources of growth" (what led to growth?) or "kinds of growth" (how did they grow?). For example, personal therapy and work experiences were noted as influential sources of growth for their clinical work. Family Systems Theory, whether discussed in a classroom setting or implemented in the clinic room, was considered influential on their personal lives. Participants' mentioned various kinds of personal and clinical growth experiences such as self-awareness, perspective-taking, and open-mindedness. To conceptualize and illustrate therapist interns' recursive growth processes, a theoretical model was developed.



therapist development, growth, qualitative research, Self of therapists