Preparing practitioners to respond to resistance: a cross-professional view

Apr. 15, 2007

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 13, Issue 2
April 2007, pages 109 – 123

Teaching depends upon relationships. Yet teaching is only one of a number of professions in which practice depends heavily upon the quality of human relationship between practitioners and their clients. To explore how other professions prepare professionals for the work of building and maintaining relationships, we embarked on a study that investigated the preparation of teachers, clergy, and clinical psychologists, all professions that engage in what we are calling 'relational practices'.

In this article, we explore how preparation programs in teaching and clinical psychology, in particular, teach novices to attend to relationships in their practice, focusing specifically on how novices are prepared to respond to various forms of resistance from those they seek to serve. Our analysis draws upon a subset of data from our larger study, including interviews, classroom observations, and observations of field experiences from visits to five professional preparation programs: three clinical psychology programs and two teacher preparation programs.

Our data suggest that clinical psychology and teacher education programs both prepare novices to try to prevent resistance through careful planning. However, clinical psychology programs provided students with more opportunities to rehearse responses to client resistance in the moment, through the use of role-play and other simulations. Clinical psychology programs also provided novice clinicians with both a common language and theoretical base with which to analyze client resistance. We argue that teacher education might be strengthened by providing novice teachers with similarly deliberate and focused opportunities to practice responding to resistance.

Updated: Mar. 13, 2008