Adapting Instruction to the Level of Knowledge of Trainees

One of the first topics that I cover with new trainees on our doctoral programme is the professional knowledge base of counselling psychology. I then revisit this topic near the end of their training when they have to prepare their final clinical paper for submission to their portfolio.

With our first year trainees, I take a much more active and directive approach, where I cover the necessary material in a lecture and as we go along I invite them to offer their thoughts and raise questions. With our final year trainees, I take a less structured approach. A few weeks before the class, I ask them to separate themselves into five groups corresponding to each of the five main areas of our professional knowledge base: philosophical knowledge; psychological knowledge; psychotherapeutic theories; research; and reflexivity and ethics (Orlans & van Scoyoc, 2009). Then, depending on their group, trainees prepare to discuss in class how the designated area of professional knowledge has informed their clinical practice by using examples from their clinical work. I then facilitate the discussion and help them identify potential tensions and dilemmas.


Orlans, V. and van Scoyoc, S. (2009) A Short Introduction to Counselling Psychology. London: Sage.