Cultural encapsulation of therapist trainees: A preliminary inquiry

Peter A. Gill (2007)

The purpose of the present study was to examine whether and to what extent therapist trainees became aware of their thoughts and responses that demonstrated certain types of cultural encapsulation (Wrenn, 1962, 1985); and whether and to what extent this self-awareness of cultural encapsulation helped them to be sensitive towards culturally diverse interviewees. A sample of 6 cases of 10 process notes each ( N = 60 notes) collected at a Midwestern university was randomly selected from an archived data set of 30 cases. The Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) method (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997) was used to analyze self-reflective process notes of doctoral counseling psychology students who mentored individuals in the community whose demographic characteristics (e.g., gender, age, socioeconomic status, religion, race, ethnicity, regional/national origin, sexual orientation, and ability status) differed from their own on 1 or more characteristics. A frequency distribution of the core ideas provided a simple and convenient way of summarizing and describing the number of times core ideas emerged for each category (or common theme), per session, across the six cases. The qualitative analysis led to the emergence of 6 domains (broad topic areas): 2 reflecting Cultural Encapsulation and 4 reflecting Cultural Decapsulation. The emergence of more domains reflective of Cultural Decapsulation, accompanied by several common themes across cases, was a positive outcome, suggesting evidence of active engagement by trainees in an experientially-oriented learning process of becoming culturally aware. The qualitative analysis also led to an understanding of cognitive stimuli that result in therapist trainees' multicultural awareness and responsiveness. A frequency distribution revealed a consistent emergence of themes representing 3 of 4 domains of Decapsulation throughout the 10 weeks. This consistency suggests that trainees were actively engaged towards increasing self-awareness during most of their meetings with their interviewee. T tests determined if domains with a notable difference in the frequency of core ideas between the first 5 and latter 5 sessions were significant findings. Results of the t tests suggest that unlike the proposed hypothesis, expressing Decapsulation came first for the trainees. It had been hypothesized that encapsulation would be first revealed, to be followed by decapsulation. The results suggest that decapsulation is a complex process.