The Relationship of Cognitive Style and Epistemological Commitment to Counselor Trainee Development Level

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George Buelow

Advisor Department



The professional role of supervision is taking on added importance and increased definition within the realm of counseling psychology. Therefore, studying those intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental factors which may impact the efficacy of counselor training is an important avenue of empirical inquiry. The focus of this study was to explore the relationship of cognitive style, epistemological commitment, and counselor practicum experience to counselor developmental outcome. Three primary bodies of research literature were reviewed as a theoretical foundation for this study: identity literature and research, epistemological theory and research, and supervision theory and research. More specifically, drawing upon the "self-as-cognitive process" construct of identity (Berzonsky, 1992; Kegan, 1982; Loevinger, 1976; Piaget, 1971), epistemological theory (Royce & Mos, 1980), and the counselor identity model of counselor training (Blocher, 1983; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987), the main thrust of this study's hypotheses was that a counselor trainee's cognitive identity style, along with his or her epistemic style, would relate to his or her developmental level as a counselor-in-training. Findings supported a correspondence between cognitive/identity style and counselor trainee developmental level. Likewise, data analyses yielded significant support for a relationship between epistemic style and counselor trainee developmental level. These findings lend concurrent validity to both Berzonsky's (1992) model of Identity styles and Royce and Mos's (1980) model of Psycho-epistemological profiles. Data analyses also yielded support for the counselor developmental model (Stoltenberg, 1980; Stoltenberg & Delworth, 1987), in that developmental indices of (a) self and other awareness, (b) motivation, and (c) autonomy were related to level of counselor experience.