Out of the Room: a Phenomenological Study into the Lived Experiences of Becoming and Being a Counsellor-leader
Smith, Kent Barrie Llewellyn
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The purpose of this study is to explore the lived experiences of becoming and being a counsellor-leader, in order to understand and see the phenomenon. The notion of the counsellor-leader is not widely studied or discussed in counselling or leadership literature. However, what is written does highlight that the counsellor-leader may have a contribution to make toward the development of the vocation, as well as having influence on the social, health, and political landscapes of Aotearoa New Zealand. In this country the counselling vocation is undergoing significant change; indeed, there is a call for leadership in this country’s health context at all levels of stakeholder: government, funder, agency, and service user. Additionally, the literature contends that counsellors have characteristics and attributes that aligns them as good leaders; counsellor-leaders are possibilities. But how does the counsellor-leader Become to Be? It is this new geography of leading that the study explores: investigating how the notion of the counsellor-leader is experienced and given meaning by practising counsellors. As such, the thesis aims to contribute to an understanding of becoming and being a counsellor-leader by attending to the lived experiences of 12 counsellor-leaders. Understanding is achieved through a hermeneutic phenomenological study. Participants shared their stories of becoming and being a counsellor-leader which were interpreted as defined by van Manen’s six research activities of hermeneutic phenomenology. Heidegger’s radical ontology into the study of Being was foundational in the development of understanding as notions emerged. The hermeneutic circle as proffered by Heidegger and Gadamer constructs this study’s centrifugal force of ever expanding understanding. Participants’ individual stories, combined into a larger story, indicate through subtle notions that there are essential, and universal, ingredients that are the experiences of counsellor-leaders. The meaning of becoming and being a counsellor-leader is revealed as understanding self through impressive self awareness that is present, historical, and futural. Wise-ness shines through into a leaderful presence and my study argues that this is because counsellor-leaders are counsellors. Counsellors are always ongoingly Becoming; the journey of self-discovery and understanding contributes to the leaderful presence they each imbue. The study adds to the conversation about counsellors being leaders in that they can, do, and should contribute across a range of leadership contexts outside of the therapy room.