The following practitioner commentary was contributed by Ellen Hawley McWhirter.
The following practitioner commentary was contributed by Ellen Hawley McWhirter. She is an associate professor in the counseling psychology department at the University of Oregon. I was fortunate to be provided with very good theoretical training during both my master’s and doctoral programs. In addition to reading basic theories texts, for example, we were required to read Rogers, Ellis, Freud, Adler, and other theoreticians’ original works. However, it was not reading about theories that helped me move from being able to describe theories to being able to describe what I do in consistent theoretical terms. It was the combination of practicing, trying out, and receiving supervision on my attempts to live out theory in my sessions. When I was completing my predoctoral internship, I had a wonderful supervisor who allowed me to sit in on her sessions, and who conducted supervision in a way that paralleled the way she did therapy (although supervision never felt like therapy). That exposure might not have even changed what I did on the outside; I’m not sure. But it radically changed the way I felt on the inside: It was like finally finding a shoe that fit just right. What is ironic is that I had never read Teyber [the author of Interpersonal Process in Psychotherapy] and didn’t know what to call her way of doing therapy. When I began teaching practicum myself, I read Teyber’s book and realized that my supervisor had been doing interpersonal process [see Teyber, 1997]. The more I read, the more it fit. This theory more than any other is consistent with things I believe about human change processes and about how to facilitate those processes. Now I require that text for all students in practicum, regardless of their preferred theory, because it promotes self-reflection and in-session process that enriches their growth and their sessions.
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