The Journey of the Counselor and Therapist: Research Findings and Perspectives on Professional Development

Michael H. Rønnestad, Thomas M. Skovholt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

440 Scopus citations


This article summarizes a reformulation of the main findings and perspectives from a cross-sectional and longitudinal qualitative study of the development of 100 counselors and therapists. The results are presented as a phase model and as a formulation of 14 themes of counselor/therapist development. The following six phases are described: The phases of the lay helper, the beginning student, the advanced student, the novice professional, the experienced professional, and the senior professional. The themes describe central processes of counselor/therapist development. The themes are addressing different issues such as shifts in attentional focus and emotional functioning, the importance of continuous reflection for professional growth, and a life-long personal/profession integration process. Sources of influence for professional functioning and development are described. The results show consistently that interpersonal experiences in the personal life domain (early family life and adult personal life) and the professional life domain (interacting with clients, professional elders, and peers) are significant sources of influence for professional development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-44
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Career Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Burnout
  • Career development
  • Counselor development
  • Professional development
  • Psychotherapist development


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