Away – between – towards: A study of counselling students’ development and experience of cognitive dissonance
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The Master of Science in Counselling prepares and supports the students while developing towards becoming congruent counsellors. The aim of this study was not directly related to investigating whether the students felt congruent or not, however, it came closer to an understanding of this through studying the students’ experience of cognitive dissonance. The theoretical framework used in this thesis suggested that there are differences in relation to operating close to the authentic self, experience of efficiency and degree of self-awareness. Recognizing the developmental level could give an understanding of the students’ experience of cognitive dissonance, due to the close relation between development and cognitive dissonance. The use of Q methodology was found appropriate to study the students’ subjective experience. 28 students defined four factors, interpretation led to an understanding that the four factors had varying experiences in relation to security and insecurity, thus operating at different developmental levels. Factor 1 was understood as «I trust myself as being whole and congruent», operating at an achiever level with little associated cognitive dissonance. Factor 2 was understood as «I need others in order to grow into feeling more secure», operating at a conformer level, experiencing cognitive dissonance more frequently than Factor 1. Factor 3 was understood as «I know what is needed, but may choose to stay clear of that path», operating from an expert level, experiencing cognitive dissonance more frequently than Factor 2. Factor 4 was understood as «I feel more whole, yet at the same time dwell between certainty and uncertainty», operating at a transitional level between expert and achiever and appeared to be experiencing the highest frequency of cognitive dissonance of all four factors. These differences could be related to the students various experiences of their holding environments. Further research could benefit from taking the students holding environment more into consideration, as well as gaining a deeper knowledge of how development actually occurs during the masters programme.