Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. John S. Geisler

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert L. Betz

Third Advisor

Dr. Richard O'Heam


The purpose of this study was to describe and document the essence of the experience of self-criticism for performing artists with the aim of providing recommendations for educational and therapeutic purposes. Moustakas (1994) defines essence as “that which is common or universal, the condition or quality without which a thing would not be what it is” (p. 100). In this study a phenomenological research paradigm was used. Each step in the data reduction process built directly toward revelation of essence through synthesis.

The central question guiding this research was: What is the essence of self-criticism as it is experienced by performing artists? Two related subquestions were: (1) What possible underlying themes and contexts account for the experience of self-criticism? and (2) What are the possible structural meanings of the experience of self-criticism?

The six participants in this study were professional performing artists: four principal dancers, one choreographer and dancer, and one musician (who was the principal in an orchestra section). All of the participants were British and were under contract with the Royal Opera House and Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in London, England. The research strategy for this study used 90-minute in-depth individual telephone interviews.

The findings, which identified self-criticism as (a) losing confidence, (b) being afraid, (c) a pattern of thinking, and (d) an unending experience, are the essences common to the participants’ experiences of self-criticism. These findings suggest potentially important attitudes and directions to be taken by both clinicians and teachers who work with professional performing artists and performing arts students. The findings are discussed in relation to how they can guide future research. These include: communicating to performing artists in a clinical context the perpetual, self-regulatory purpose of self-criticism; identifying and challenging the pattern of thinking associated with self-criticism; and recognizing not only the fear, but also the courage involved in performance. In an educational or training context, the attitudes and directions indicated by the findings of this study are to support students’ confidence by (a) providing specific and detailed feedback, (b) balancing critical with noncritical comments, and (c) encouraging student self-awareness of strengths in performance.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access