Drinking from an empty glass: A mixed-method analysis of counselling psychology trainees’ stress and barriers to self-care

Claire Carter*, Ruth Northway, Shelley Gait

*Corresponding author for this work

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Results from a recent BPS and NSP survey (2020) confirmed psychological practitioners are an at-risk group for their overall wellbeing. While most research to date focuses on clinical psychologists, limited research exists on counselling psychologists (CP), and more specifically trainee CP who are at an optimal time in their career to learn stress management and explore self-care strategies before entering the professional world. A mixed-methods study was therefore conducted with (n= 45) U.K. based CP trainees to explore 3 main objectives; (1) to measure trainees’ current levels of stress, (2) to understand trainees’ experience of using self-care tools in their own lives, and (3) to explore specific facilitators and barriers to support for trainees, if any.

Initially, the Perceived Stress Scale-10 item (PSS-10), was used to measure current levels of trainee stress. 71.1% of the sample scored in the moderate stress range. Following this (n= 10) trainees participated in follow-up semi-structured interviews. Using thematic analysis 4 main themes emerged; 1. Practising what we preach, 2. Individual differences, 3. Training Structure, and 4. Competing demands. In this article, we focus on the most prominent subthemes which are key barriers as noted by the majority of participants: from Theme 3-Placement hours, and from Theme 4- Influence of finances. Overall, this paper concludes that despite the moderate stress level amongst this population, there is still an attempt by trainees to apply self-care to their own lives but with key facilitators and barriers in this respect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-13
JournalCounselling Psychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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