Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. John Geisler

Second Advisor

Dr. Suzanne Hedstrom

Third Advisor

Dr. Regina Nelson


A developmental emphasis is the fundamental core of the school counseling profession. However, Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Programs (CG&CPs) that have been identified as developmental have been shown to have significant gaps with regard to developmental theoretical concepts. In addition, counselors who are implementing CG&CPs are unsure of how to put developmental principles into practice. This study explored how elementary and middle school counselors who currently implement CG&CPs perceive the developmental philosophical foundation of the program. A focus group methodology was used for this study to gain an in-depth understanding of elementary and middle school counselors’ perceptions of developmental guidance. A total of nine credentialed school counselors were chosen to participate and placed into one of two groups. The length of the focus group interviews were 90 minutes. The interviews were unstructured and a constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyze and interpret the data. Follow-up interviews were also conducted to clarify vague or elusive data or to refine salient data.

Four major themes were identified: (1) The demand to Justify CG&CPs, (2) CG&CPs as Related to Developmental Guidance and Relationships, (3) Managing Resistance, and (4) The Press of the School Environment. Respondents viewed CG&CPs and their developmental foundation as the “ultimate,” yet at the same time they perceived the developmental approach to guidance as impractical and in conflict with the reality of the school environment. In summary, this study illustrated counselors’ misconceptions of developmental guidance and emphasized a lack of understanding into theoretical developmental concepts. It underscored the need to enhance school counselors’ training to include a knowledge base that expounds upon developmental theory.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access