Title: University counseling groups for international students: Impact on group leaders and members
Faculty Mentor: Mark Beecher, Ph.D., Department of Counseling and Psychological and Special Education
Academic Objectives: All of the objectives in the grant proposal were met. Included is each of the objectives from the original proposal and how each has been met.
Outcome 1: Students will develop research and presentation skills that will help them in their future disciplines. Mentors guided undergraduate and graduate students through the processes of writing the IRB application, conducting literature searches, collecting and analyzing qualitative data, critically thinking about data results, preparing and delivering presentations at professional academic conferences. All of the undergraduate and graduate student research team members collaborated to prepare conference presentations. At the 2013 AGPA Conference all students co-delivered the oral paper presentation.
Outcome 2: Students will develop professional working relationships with faculty at BYU and other universities. Students have worked closely with Dr. Beecher throughout the research study and have learned the benefits of collaborating with a research team to complete project details. Students have also learned to consult with experts during different stages of the process (e.g. consulting with Dr. Aaron Jackson regarding appropriate qualitative methodology). Students also developed relationships with staff psychologists from various university counseling centers.
Outcome 3: Students will learn to integrate spiritual and secular learning into psychotherapy research. The research team was encouraged to be prayerful about the analysis of qualitative data and to be receptive to spiritual insights. Students helped collect and analyze qualitative data from a group of individuals representing a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds.
Outcome 4: Students and faculty mentors will increase multi-cultural competency for conducting research with diverse populations and for doing clinical work with international students. The research team is comprised of individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds including three students from America, one student who emigrated with her family from the Philippines when she was a child, one who is an international student from Japan, and one who is an international student from China. The mentored students developed relationships with group leaders and group members from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The students learned to analyze qualitative data from a multicultural framework that works to examine the interviews from various cultural perspectives. Students were also exposed to literature that focuses on multi-cultural research.
Outcome 5: It is hoped that the proposed research will benefit clinicians and researchers interested in literature on international student groups. It is also hoped that the results of this research will be able to inform BYU’s Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS) in better developing group services for international students. Many counseling center clinicians attended the presentation at the 2013 American Group Psychotherapy Association Annual Conference (AGPA) and the presentation received positive reviews. The 2014 AGPA Annual Conference presentation has received a sponsorship by the College Counseling Special Interest Group and so it is hoped that many clinicians interested in international student support groups will attend the session. A future publication in the Journal of College Counseling (not yet written or submitted) will reach thousands of practitioners in the United States. The counseling center (CAPS) at BYU has already begun to develop group services for international students and has taken into consideration many of the recommendations from this study. In fact, one of the graduate students from our research team has been invited to co-lead the international student support group.
Evaluation of Mentoring Environment: Students were selected through a process of interviews that focused on their research abilities, interests, and professional goals. All of the students have been highly motivated and have eagerly participated in the details of the research process. It has appeared that students have enjoyed their participation and many have offered to continue working on the project even after the funding has expired. Efforts have been made to help students take ownership of research. In our team meetings (and in my one-on-one consultations) I encouraged students to express their ideas and opinions. I invited disagreements and suggestions regarding our research design and methodology. Students have actively participated as co-authors on IRB applications and academic presentations.
Our research team traveled together to Denver to present the first phase of our study at the 2013 Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. It was the first professional conference for many of the students in our team and they learned much about how psychological research is disseminated through poster and oral presentations.
Presentations: This mentored research project has resulted in presentations at national and regional professional conferences. The references are included below and undergraduate student names have been highlighted in red and graduate students in blue.
Johnson, A., Tingey, M., Kung, P., Li, Z., Takara, L., Page, N., Beecher, Mark. (2013, April). So you want to lead an international student support group? Advice from group leaders. Paper presented at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association 2013 Conference, Denver, CO.
Page, N., Kung, P., Li, Z., Tingey. M, Johnson, A., Takara, L., Beecher, M. (2013, April). Best practice guidelines for developing international student support groups. Poster presented at the McKay School of Education Mentored Research Conference, Provo, UT.
Page, N. & Beecher, M. (2013, February). Where do we begin? Developing international student group services at university counseling centers. In W. Freedman (Chair), Time-limited circumstances: Developing group interventions in college counseling services. Paper presented as part of symposium conducted at the 2013 American Group Psychotherapy Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.
Page, N., Kung, P., Li, Z., Tingey. M, Johnson, A., Takara, L., & Beecher, M. (Accepted for presentation – 2014, March). International student support groups: Best practice guidelines and considerations. Paper to be presented at the 2014 American Group Psychotherapy Association Annual Conference, Boston, MA.
The research team plans to submit a manuscript of the results to the Journal of College Counseling.
Alex Johnson joined the research team in January 2011 and participated in all aspects of the research process. He was admitted to the research track of the Social Work Master’s Program at Brigham Young University and began in August 2013.
Phoebe Kung is a senior studying psychology. She joined the research team in April 2013 and helped transcribe and analyze transcripts, and prepare/deliver poster and oral presentations. Phoebe is currently completing applications for graduate programs in social work.
Melissa Tingey is a senior studying psychology. She joined the research team in April 2013 and helped transcribe and analyze transcripts, and prepare/deliver poster and oral presentations. Melissa plans to apply to doctoral psychology programs.
Zhen Li is a second-year student in the BYU Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program and joined the research team in April 2013. She has helped transcribe and analyze transcripts and prepare/deliver poster and oral presentations. Zhen is currently working on her dissertation that focuses on international student concerns.
Nate Page is fourth-year student in the BYU Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program and joined the research team in April 2010. This research study has provided the data for Nate’s dissertation, which he plans to defend in April 2014.
Lisa Takara took her Ph.D. from BYU in the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program and graduate in August 2013. She is currently working in private practice in Orem, UT. She has developed research and clinical interests for working with international students.
Introduction: Many university counseling centers have begun developing group services designed to support international students that are facing adjustment challenges. A mentored research team from Brigham Young University conducted a multi-site study that explored, evaluated, and summarized the experiences of international student group members and group leaders from over seven university counseling centers in the US. The primary goals of this research were twofold: (1) to produce a hermeneutic understanding of the impact these groups had on members and leaders, and (2) to explicate key considerations and recommendations for developing international student support groups in university counseling settings.
Procedure: Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with six group leaders from five different universities and with ten group members from four different universities. Data collection and analysis phases followed a process of hermeneutic interpretation that has been articulated by Kvale and Brinkmann (2009)*.
Results: Results are presented as themes and supported by a few quotations from interview transcripts. We are continuing the process of evaluating interview transcripts and analyzing themes. This report includes two of the most salient, initial themes for a clinical audience.
Theme One. All group leaders (and many group members) spoke to the difficulty of starting, and maintaining, group services for international students due to low turnout. Oftentimes groups will never get up and running because not enough international students attend. Group leaders and members provided several recommendations for how to recruit international students including (1) Investing significant time and energy in developing trusting relationships with the international student community (international student and scholar office, campus clubs/organizations, academic support advisors, professors, graduate departments with high numbers of international students); (2) attending international student orientation to make a presentation, have a booth, distribute flyers, and mingle with international students and university staff; (3) attending events for international students; (4) creating outreach events; and (5) creating posters and flyers and sending information about the group through e-mail list serves from the international student office. Some group leaders talked about holding office hours in the international student office as part of their center’s Let’s Talk program. Others collaborate and/or co-sponsor the group with another campus organization. Some group leaders held meetings in a location other than the counseling center in efforts to reduce the potential stigma associated with entering a counseling center.
“I really tried to go into their world on campus and really get to know them…as a trusted person”
“I have some specific contacts in certain departments like chemistry…some of the places where a lot of international students tend to be.”
“Expose yourself to the [international student] community…so that you can recruit people. Connect with other administrators who also work with international students because they have access in ways that you don’t to that community.”
Theme Two. International student support groups differ from other types of counseling center groups in some fundamental ways, and these differences create certain considerations for group leaders. One central difference is that many international students attend these groups in hopes to make social connections and may desire relationships outside of the group meetings. Group leaders should consider how they want to negotiate such issues as extra-therapy relationships and confidentiality. Another difference is that the international student communities at most universities are small enough that group members often know each other and have shared friends. This creates additional considerations for how to handle confidentiality. A final difference is that group leaders easily felt pulled into other helping roles, such as a mentor or advocate.
“Another whole goal I had of creating the group was that they could establish relationships outside of their own graduate department…and expand their friendship networks.”
“I do think working with international students requires kind of letting go of some of our fixed notions and our training and really kind of being flexible in some of those boundaries.”
“So I really think that you modify the traditional counseling approach…to reach out to different populations”
“with this population you really need to take multiple helping roles.”
This budget accounting is as accurate as possible based on records up to 12/31/13 (Several expenditures were made on 12/30/13.)
*Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). InterViews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.