Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Will W. Adams

Committee Member

Eva Simms

Committee Member

Russell Walsh


Evidence-based practice, Focusing, Graduate training, Professional development, Self-care, Self-reflection


The present study is an empirical phenomenological investigation of the influence of peer group Focusing practice (Gendlin, 1981) on doctoral psychology students' senses of their developing clinical expertise. Focusing, a therapeutic bodily awareness and symbolization practice, was proposed as a method that would support the development of student self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-care. The present study investigates the experiences of three female doctoral students who participated in a peer-initiated and peer-run Focusing group for five semesters. The methodological procedures for a reflective empirical phenomenological study as articulated by Giorgi and Giorgi (2003), Robbins (2006), and Wertz (1984) were followed. Procedures adapted from Walsh (1995) to ensure phenomenological researcher reflexivity and to explicate the researcher's approach to the phenomenon were also used. All participants provided data via audiotaped individual interviews, read provisional interpretations and provided written and verbal feedback to the researcher. The interpretive analyses of these texts indicated that all participants found their participation in the peer Focusing group to enhance some aspects of their clinical expertise. The findings support the idea that peer group Focusing is a helpful method for directly training psychology graduate students in self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-care. Relationships between these findings and research on the use of mindfulness meditation in graduate psychology training are discussed. Implications for curriculum development, including a discussion of the relationship between the findings and the training concepts of personal professional development and professional development are explored.