Poster Presentation

Counseling Students' Self-Determination in the Wake of Covid-19

Original Research

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Introduction | Background

The purpose of this study was to utilize Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), as a theoretical basis in order to understand how COVID-19 related adjustments have impacted counseling trainee's experience with clinical supervision and education. 

We hypothesized that:  Change in delivery of clinical supervision/education, & levels of change in program engagement (i.e., engagement with supervisors, faculty, and peers) due to COVID-19, would negatively impact students' feelings of relatedness, autonomy, and perceived competence.



55 Master's level counseling students across the United States were recruited for this study via counseling-based listservs.

We created a survey via Qualtrics; The COVID-19 Self Determination Survey. While creating a new survey measure limits the validity and reliability offered by standardized measures, the specificity gained by crafting a novel set of questions enabled the collection of data particular to the students lived experiences during the pandemic. The components of Self-Determination Theory were used to explore the relationship between counseling students' experience of changes related to covid-19 and their sense of relatedness, autonomy, and competence. 
Survey details: 
45 question online survey (questions were measured on a 5-point Likert scale)
Questions were crafted specifically to address student experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data collected from this survey was analyzed using a canonical correlation analysis to analyze the following:  
Change in program variables: Change in delivery of education/clinical supervision from face-to-face, to online &
Change in program engagement. In relation to, Self-determination variables: Autonomy, relatedness, & competency."


Pearson r =.52  Significant: p< .05. 27% of the variance in Self Determination scores are explained by change in program. Higher ‘change in program’ scores are related to greater negative impact on Self Determination variables. The Self Determination Theory variables with the most impact on the main correlation were relatedness to program -.59 and perceived competence -.54.


Adjustments necessitated by COVID-19 are still present, and the accumulating impact that this has had on counseling students generally remains unknown. Our results suggest that adjustments made to clinical supervision and the educational experience due to the pandemic are associated with lower student engagement, resulting in lower scores related to the constructs of Self-Determination Theory: relatedness, competence, and autonomy. Within the current context of the pandemic, opportunities for impromptu conversations in passing with professors and clinical supervisors, or simple forms of informal camaraderie with peers, are mostly non-existent. As we have passed the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic, a greater emphasis on engagement in counselor training programs is critical.

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Presenter Name(s), Emails, and School

Brian Clarke

Austin Guida