A discursive analysis of White trainee counselling psychologists’ experience in racial difference

Anastasios Gaitanidis, Sharon O'Driscoll, Paul Dickerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Content & Focus: This study has investigated how White trainee counselling psychologists construct their experience of training in the area of racial difference, and how they discursively explore and negotiate their own potential for racial prejudice within the therapeutic encounter. This study attempts to offer some insight into the available discourses and their role in the creation of subject positions that the trainees come to occupy. Method: Using the framework of Critical Discursive Psychology (CDP), data from eight interviews and two focus groups have been discursively analysed and are presented as one of an ever-evolving number of possible analyses. The study consisted of four female and four male participants, ranging in age from 28–57 years, who were between their second and fourth year of training. Findings: The present analysis of the data has found that as the participants grapple with their professional identities as counselling psychologists in training, they inhabit one of three seemingly omnipresent discursive fields; ‘colour-blindness’, ‘interculturalism’ and ‘pluralism’. These fields offer the trainees alternative constructions of practice that are drawn on depending on which professional representation appears to be at stake. In particular, the participants struggle to balance the desire for value free openness associated with a pluralistic approach, alongside a need for professional competency. This professional competency is characterised by a dependence upon generalised understandings of racialised groups as supported by an intercultural perspective. Conclusion: It is argued that the multifaceted epistemological roots of counselling psychology leave much open to interpretation. Discursive fields are occupied interchangeably and supported by ideologies that are seemingly ill-defined. The present study would argue that the result is a basis for practice that runs the risk of alternating between privileging and excluding difference, whilst espousing an apparent integrity presented within the theory of pluralism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalCounselling Psychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Racism
  • Racial Difference
  • Counselling Psychology

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