Clara Hill

Clara E. Hill, born on September 13, 1948, in Shivers, Mississippi, has contributed profoundly to counseling psychology through her innovations in counseling process and outcome research, development of models for teaching helping skills and for working with dreams, and creation of a qualitative research methodology. She has also received several of counseling psychology’s highest honors.

Hill completed her undergraduate degree in psychology and her master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling psychology at Southern Illinois University. She then joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland, where she is now a full professor. Important early career mentors include Bill Anthony, Bruce Fretz, Paul Schauble, and John Snyder; she has mentored numerous talented proteges, including Jean Carter, Rachel Crook-Lyons, Aaron Rochlen, Barbara Thompson, and Libby Williams. Hill also has influenced counseling psychology research as editor of two of its leading journals.

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Hill has contributed to counseling process and outcome research by developing innovative procedures for identifying and measuring moment-by-moment interactions between counselor and client. These innovations enable a deeper and more incisive understanding of the counseling process and its immediate effects. Hill herself applied these techniques to the examination of counselor intentions and techniques (e.g., self-disclosure, silence), client reactions and behaviors, secrets and things left unsaid, misunderstandings, client anger, and client insight.

Hill also applied the knowledge gained from process research to the development of a model for training new counselors. Helping Skills: Facilitating Exploration, Insight, and Action, now in its second edition, provides an empirically grounded three-stage model (i.e., exploration, insight, action) for mastering basic counseling skills that is widely used at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

In addition, Hill developed an accessible model for working with clients’ dreams. She views dreams as one avenue through which clients may reach greater understanding of their difficulties and develop strategies to address them. She integrated her helping skills model and existing dream interpretation models into a three-stage process counselors use to facilitate clients’ understanding of their dreams. The process begins with an exploration of the client’s major dream images. Counselor and client then use that foundation to seek insight into the meaning of the dream and to determine how clients can make changes in their waking life. In over 20 studies, Hill has helped establish that dream work is effective in facilitating insight and action ideas, and in fostering the working alliance and client satisfaction.

Finally, Hill has contributed to the development of a qualitative research methodology (i.e., consensual qualitative research, or CQR). CQR enables researchers to examine experiential phenomena: Because participants respond verbally (often via a telephone interview) to a semistructured protocol of open-ended questions, the rich data obtained using CQR enable researchers to examine phenomena in depth. A primary team of researchers works collaboratively to collect and analyze participant data, and outside auditors check the work of the primary team. CQR has been used extensively to study the counseling process.


  1. Hill, C. E. (Ed.). (2004). Dream work in therapy: Facilitating exploration, insight, and action. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  2. Hill, C. E. (2004). Helping skills: Facilitating exploration, insight, and action (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  3. Hill, C. E., & Lambert, M. J. (2004). Methodological issues in studying psychotherapy process and outcomes. In M. J. Lambert (Ed.), Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (5th ed., pp. 84-136). New York: Wiley.
  4. Hill, C. E., Thompson, B. J., & Williams, E. N. (1997). A guide to conducting consensual qualitative research. The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 517-572.

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