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Learning to trust, trusting to treat: epistemic trust and significant learning moments for psychotherapy trainees in their own therapy

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:34 authored by John Leonard Butters
A cornerstone for the personal and professional development of counsellors and psychotherapists is frequently identified in the experiences of their own therapy. But, how does one come to trust another as a reliable source of knowledge about themselves as a person, and as a professional who provides the same support for others? And, what arising within this helping relationship becomes regarded as significant? This study seeks to explore the role of the trainee's attachment pattern to their own therapist as shaping their preparedness to trust this individual as a reliable source of social knowledge. The study used a mixed methodology to firstly quantitatively identify trainee attachment patterns with their treatingtherapist. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore trainee experiences of trust and doubt in themselves and theirtherapist, and significant or teachable moments. A qualitative framework was used to construct plausible models thatreflect different epistemic stances taken with the treating therapist. Following triangulation of a self report measure and a clinician rated scale of the trainees’ attachment to their therapist,a two-group comparison of interviews was made which reflected a contrast between four securely attached, and onetrainee identified as having a hyperactivating attachment orientation to their therapist. The emergence of distinctepistemic stances taken by secure and hyperactivating trainees suggest that the prevailing attachment orientation of thetherapeutic dyad did shape the trainees’ approaches to learning social knowledge and the kinds of moments experiencedas significant. This study represents a first exploration of the linkages between a trainee therapist’s pattern of social learning(epistemic stance) with their own therapist and the subsequent moments they regard as significant. Differences inepistemic stance do indeed shape the trainee’s approach to trusting in and collaborating with another mind, leading todiffering trajectories not just in their own therapies but across the spectrum of social relationships. An awareness ofdiffering epistemic stances across trainees may well sharpen training and development avenues for those individualsidentified as having insecure attachment patterns, as well as potentially shape the ways in which psychotherapy deliveryis offered to these individuals.


Table of Contents

Abstract -- Introduction -- Methods -- Results -- Discussion -- Conclusion -- References -- Appendices.


Empirical thesis. Bibliography: pages 83-99

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences , Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Simon Boag


Copyright John Leonard Butters 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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