Re-imagining the posthuman in counsellor education : entanglements of matter and meaning in the performative enactments of counsellor-in-training identities.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Limited research is available which directly investigates the lived experience of counsellors-in-training, and how it shapes both what it means to become a counsellor, and counsellor education. Conceptualisations of this process and related counsellor education are mainly limited to psychological and humanistic models of professional development. As a counsellor educator on a Master of Counselling programme, espousing a social constructionist approach to counselling, I was interested to both study the lived experience of counsellors-in-training and explore the possibilities of theorizing this process beyond the limits of available conceptual frameworks for counsellor education.
This thesis performs ethico-onto-epistemological shifts in relation with the matter, time and space of this project, from primarily post-structural to posthumanist ways of conceptualising the research process and the (post)human subject, along with considering implications of reconfiguring the counsellor-in-training subject for counsellor education. With a focus on mapping and theorizing the experiences of a small, diverse group of counsellors-in-training, I draw on data generated over the period of one year, primarily through the post-structurally informed methodology of collective biography. A shift to a posthumanist analytic focus enabled a move beyond the discursive to a mapping of the multiple, entangled material, affective and discursive force relations enacting the agential possibilities for counsellors-in-training. Engaging in a diffractive, rather than reflexive, process of data analysis, which marks a decentring of the individual subject of inquiry, and instead requires an opening up to the intra-active flows, matter, and material-discursive practices, I document how tears came to matter, both as an object of analysis, and for counsellors-in-training, in relation to the multiple forces enacting them.
Counsellor-in-training (and counsellor-researcher) tears, as both present and ghostly, are conceptualised in Karen Barad’s agential realist terms as material-discursive practices or phenomena (Barad, 2007). Data analysis entails a detailed mapping of tears as phenomena, which makes visible the multiple intra-active forces and encounters enacting them. Such analysis shows not just the complex and intra-active material-discursive forces at work in the materialisation of tears, but through tears, the forces at work then, also in the ongoing and iterative (re)(con)figuring of a counsellor-in-training as posthuman subject. In this way, a counsellor-in-training educative subject is re-imagined as an ethical, vital, moving embodiment of multiple affective-material-discursive relations, an enactment of “unfolding the self onto the world, while enfolding the world within” (Braidotti, 2016, p. 26). Such a re-imagining of this posthuman, educative subject necessarily invites a reconceptualising of (counsellor) education and its pedagogical practices.
This thesis concludes with an initial consideration of the kinds of pedagogical practices and challenges such a post-human re-imagining might produce for counsellor education. In particular, I draw on the posthumanist concepts of emergent listening and diffraction to conceptualise the group process participants engaged in, and reconfigure the posthumanist pedagogical possibilities of a shift from reflective to diffractive practice in counsellor education. Requiring an openness to the not-yet known, diffractive practice as pedagogy invites counsellors-in-training beyond known, habitual, and normative reproductions of identity and practice. I suggest that a collective, diffractive process, where posthumanist notions of entanglement, dynamic relationality, and difference underpin embodied and creative practices of telling and listening, affords both generative and disruptive possibilities for emerging counsellor identities and practices, and for counsellor education.