The impact of learning a new experiential play-based therapy on the personal growth of counselling students and qualified counsellors is explored in this study. Extensive research exists on personal growth opportunities for practicing counsellors within the context of group work, personal therapy, supervision and ongoing professional development. However, few studies focus on the integration of personal growth opportunities afforded through the learning of counselling strategies and approaches in counsellor education programs at the graduate level. Addressing this gap, the study draws on transformative pedagogy theory and practice as a way of understanding and fostering personal growth opportunities among both practicing and student counsellors. A qualitative action research methodology was used which draws upon the researcher’s own experience as both counsellor and counsellor educator. Participants, aged 22 to over 65 years, included three students in a full-time master’s counsellor education program, one in a full-time master’s in art therapy program, three students in a part-time master’s counsellor education program, and 10 qualified counsellors at master’s or diploma level working with children and youth in the field. The workshop component of the research, which was based on the principles of transformative pedagogy, involved a training course in Neuroscience and Satir in the Sand Tray (NSST). The interview component consisted of individual in-depth interviews with participants using NSST to elicit responses plus a follow-up questionnaire after the course was completed. The process and the emergent outcomes of the participants' experiences were examined using an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Each interview was video-taped and photographs were taken to document the participants’ process of engaging with NSST. IPA provided insights into how personal growth was experienced and how this in turn emerged as personal growth opportunities, which were both fostered and interpreted through a transformative pedagogical approach. There were two main findings. Most participants reported experiencing personal growth opportunities and these were manifested in a variety of ways. Further, the majority of participants reported experiencing one or more of the many aspects of the transformative pedagogy which foregrounded and afforded their personal growth. Implications for counsellor education are discussed.
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