The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of MFT trainee shame, self-criticism, and self-compassion. Additionally, this study also sought to understand how those experiences may affect a trainee’s clinical work as a first-time practicum student. Interviews were conducted with 15 trainees in a graduate program who were performing therapy at a practicum site. Utilizing Moustakas’ transcendental phenomenology, six essential themes emerged: (1) shame and self-criticism are interrelated and can affect therapeutic presence; (2) self-criticism can have a positive impact on clinical work; (3) trainees use metaphors to describe shame and self-criticism (4) self-compassion is an antidote to shame and self-criticism; (5) support from others is helpful to manage shame and self-criticism; and (6) graduate training on shame, self-criticism, and self-compassion was more implicit than explicit. A discussion of these findings, including recommendations for future research, training, and limitations are explored.



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