• Katarzyna Wilk

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Bridging the Gap: A collective case study of counsellors' and international students' experiences of working togetherThis research aimed to explore the dynamics of counsellors working cross-culturally with diverse clients in the context of counselling international students at Higher Education Institutes. A particular emphasis on exploring challenges of working cross-culturally with such a diverse group and the solutions to meet those challenges was investigated. Current trends in globalisation of education and the increasing numbers of foreign students entering universities create both problems and opportunities for how to meet the needs of this growing student population. Higher risk factors for distress and crisis are present for international students due to having additional pressures of adapting to a novel environment, establishing support networks, and overcoming culture shock in addition to the more common academic and financial stressors of college and university.The methodology of choice is a collective instrumental case study design that operates within a critical theory paradigm to develop an in-depth understanding of how different cases provide insight into working with diverse clients. Five British counsellors and five international students were recruited within the UK using purposeful convenience sampling through adverts and the professional networks of the researcher. Counsellors were interviewed within a single focus group and international students were interviewed individually in order to understand the researched phenomenon from both counsellor and client perspectives. Thematic Analysis was chosen to generate two separate streams of themes from both counsellor and international student groups in relation to identified challenges and solutions of working together. A second level of overarching themes was produced from comparing and contrasting responses across all participants.The findings highlight a rich heterogeneity within both groups of participants, showcasing the perspectives on both sides of the therapeutic encounter. Counsellors and students held similar and different perspectives on what they identified as challenges of working together -counsellors' vocalised a higher number of relational challenges and students' identified greater institutional barriers. Novice international students experienced increased challenges compared with seasoned international students suggesting that development of risk factors within this sub-group is a high priority to take into consideration when addressing international student needs. Viewing diversity as a positive resource was a shared solution discussed in both participant groups that relied on counsellors demonstrating liberal value systems. Both groups identified the need for institutional support to be increased with students requesting a more proactive community outreach. A dominant finding in terms of recommendations for working with diversity included the use of the pluralistic approach noting that there is no one right answer or model to work with diversity within people and that flexibility to adapt to each client was essential.The findings are not presented as definitive generalisable truths due to the small sample size, but provide contribution to a case-based understanding of how to provide support for diverse groups of students within Higher Education Institutions in order to reduce risk and increase well-being among the international student population.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & William West (Supervisor)


  • International students, counselling, Higher Education Institutes
  • support services

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