Anxiety's effect on the experience of supervision of genetic counseling students

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Anxiety's effect on the experience of supervision of genetic counseling students

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


Genetic counseling has been a recognized profession in North America for over 40 years. Supervised clinical experiences with patients comprise a critical component of genetic counseling student education. Previous research has found genetic counseling students s tend to be more anxiety prone than the general population (Jungbluth et al., 2011), and anxiety related to supervision has been found in genetic counseling (e.g., Hendrickson et al., 2002) and related fields (e.g., Skovholt & Ronnestad, 2003). The present study investigated how anxiety affects the experience of supervision for genetic counseling students. Second year genetic counseling students (~N = 200) were invited to participate through email invitations distributed via training directors of the 33 programs accredited by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. The initial online survey contained the trait scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger et al., 1983) to estimate anxiety proneness in this population and an invitation to participate in a 1-hour interview focusing on students' experiences in supervision. The interviews questions investigated seven research questions focusing on satisfaction with training, interactions with patients and supervisors, perceptions of the structure and processes of supervision, and experiences related to anxiety. High, moderate, and low trait anxiety groups were created using STAI scores, and the high and low groups' interview responses were compared using consensual qualitative research methodology (CQR; Hill, 2012). Analysis discovered relatively few differences between groups. The high anxiety group was more likely to describe problematic supervisory relationships, appreciate the supervisor's ability to help them when they get stuck in sessions, and feel their anxiety had a negative effect on their performance in general and in supervision. Common themes included supervisors' balancing support and guidance, the importance of feedback, ego-centric responses, and supervisors as focal points. Students unanimously reported positive levels of satisfaction with their clinical rotations in general and supervision specifically. The results of the present study are largely consistent with the literature, including recently published supervision competencies (Eubanks Higgins et al., 2013). Further research findings and research, practice, and training recommendations are provided.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2013. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Dr. Patricia McCarthy Veach. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 269 pages, appendices A-I.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

MacFarlane, Ian Michael. (2013). Anxiety's effect on the experience of supervision of genetic counseling students. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.