Theses Doctoral

Exploring Participatory Action Research as a Vehicle for Social Justice Training

Mao, Susan

The field of counseling psychology has demonstrated a longstanding history to multiculturalism and social justice, which is reflected in the field’s professional standards of competence. Goodman et al. (2004) derived a set of social justice principles from feminist and multicultural counseling theories, which have served to guide counseling psychologists in social justice work. These six tenets include: ongoing self-examination, sharing power, giving voice, facilitating consciousness raising, building on strengths, and leaving clients with the tools to work toward social change. Graduate training has been identified as one essential component in the development of training social-justice oriented and competent counseling psychologists. Training programs have made attempts to address the training needs of the field of counseling psychology and its commitment to the development of social justice competencies in a variety of ways; however, there is lack of understanding regarding the efficacy of these approaches as well as an identified need for increased experiential training. Participatory Action Research (PAR) is an approach to research that has demonstrated potential as a tool for social justice training with its emphasis on collective participation, collaboration, empowerment, and positive social change. As such, the purpose of this study was to explore counseling psychology trainees’ experiences with PAR and the impact of these experiences on the development of social justice competencies. Data was collected through 12 semi-structured interviews with current and recently graduated doctoral- and masters-level trainees in the field of counseling psychology. Participant narratives were transcribed and then analyzed using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR). Results illustrated participants’ understanding of social justice and PAR, descriptions of PAR projects, personal reasons for engaging in PAR as well as expectations and challenging experiences related to PAR. Participants also discussed the impact of PAR on clinical training and professional practice, specifically related to the development of social justice competencies and the development of their own self-awareness and multicultural identity development. Personal meaning and value of PAR experiences for participants as well community members engaged in PAR are also presented. Implications of the findings, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Smith, Laura
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2018