Teaching and Learning about Epistemology

: Perceptions of Students and Staff on Counselling Psychology Training Programmes

Student thesis: PsychD


Objectives: Epistemology is a key subject in Counselling Psychology, yet there is little research into how the importance placed on it translates into the training of counselling psychologists. To address this gap, this empirical qualitative study investigates what students and staff at UK CoP training institutions think and feel about epistemology teaching and learning.
Design: This qualitative study involved 15 individual interviews (nine staff, six students) and one focus group (six students) at seven doctoral counselling psychology programmes in the UK. I developed this study from a critical realist perspective.
Method: The data were analysed following Clarke and Braun's (2016) approach to Thematic Analysis.
Findings: Seven overarching themes were identified. Participants suggested that A complex epistemological position shapes CoP’s identity, but also that CoP’s epistemological position is embedded in power relationships. Participants related CoP’s professional identity to powerful medical models of health and positivistic theories of knowledge. Some participants proposed that a Consideration of epistemology may enhance research rigour. Yet despite pluralistic epistemology being seen as the core of CoP’s profession and its identity, some considered Epistemology is not privileged in teaching. Further, participants suggested that Teaching does not link epistemology to practice, making it difficult for students to see how epistemology relates to their clinical practice. Epistemology is seen as a complex topic where its teaching can either help or hinder The struggle to learn about epistemology. However, participants acknowledged that students need to play an active part in their learning, too. Further, Studying epistemology has a personal impact, both intellectually and emotionally.
Conclusions: The analysis suggest that training programmes should emphasise epistemology early in training, facilitate discussions about the topic and ensure epistemology pervades training including research and clinical practice. Students’ personal epistemology plays an important role in their learning and should be attended to by programmes.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorEdith Steffen (Supervisor) & John Rae (Supervisor)

Cite this

Teaching and Learning about Epistemology: Perceptions of Students and Staff on Counselling Psychology Training Programmes
kagleder, P. (Author), Rae, J. (Author). 2019

Student thesis: PsychD