The CACREP (2016) standards require students to gain at least 10 hours of experience in a small group as a group member. This requirement is typically met by structuring an experiential group as part of a group counseling course. Students often have an opportunity to be part of a group experience and at times to facilitate the process of this group. In an experiential learning environment that involves extensive self-disclosure and dual relationships between instructors and students, students need to know they can trust their instructor’s skill, ethics, and professionalism. Students engaged in experiential training must be willing to engage in self-disclosure, to become active participants in an interpersonal group, and to engage themselves on an emotional as well as a cognitive level.
Research on including experiential groups in a training program has increased over the past decade. St. Pierre’s (2014) survey of ACA members found that a key factor contributing to students feeling comfortable in the group experience is the perception that the instructor is competent. McCarthy, Falco, and Villalba (2014) “believe strongly in the ability of students to overcome their initial reluctance to share more openly and trust each other, particularly since this is what they will ask of members when they lead groups” (p. 187). Luke and Kiweewa (2010) found that participation in experiential groups has many benefits in the areas of personal growth and awareness in addition to offering opportunities for learning about group process. In a qualitative study of an experiential group led by doctoral students, Ieva, Ohrt, Swank, and Young (2009) found that the master’s students experienced personal growth, professional growth, and a better understanding of the group process, self-awareness, empathy for future clients, and an enhanced ability to give and receive feedback.
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