Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Suzanne M. Hedstrom

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward L. Trembley

Third Advisor

Dr. Molly B. Vass


Based on the assumptions that self-awareness is an important factor in healthy and effective functioning of helping professionals (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 1998) and that the self of the therapist is an important tool in effective therapy (Baldwin, 2000), this phenomenological study was conducted to explore the experience of inner life of helping professionals. Three women and two men, either licensed counselors or psychologists who were working in therapeutic settings, agreed to participate in a two-part interview. In the first interview, the participants described their experience of inner life, including what facilitated or hindered their experience, how inner life informed their therapeutic work, and what part their professional training played in the development, maintenance, and use of their inner life. In the second interview, the participants had the opportunity to correct or elaborate on the content of the first interview.

Although the experience of inner life was described differently by the five participants, four common themes emerged. First, the experience of inner life was described as a spiritual experience. Second, nature was an important component of the experience of inner life. Third, the interplay of solitude and community was a common aspect of the experience of inner life. Fourth, inner life played an important part in the participants’ professional work in the outer world; however, none of the participants could say their professional training played a part in the awareness, development, or maintenance of inner life.

The experience of inner life is an important part of both the personal and professional lives of the helping professionals interviewed for this study. It is hoped the findings of this study will add to knowledge regarding the subjective experience of inner life and how helping professionals develop and maintain a healthy inner life which, in turn, contributes to healthy and effective professional functioning. Helping professionals need to learn not only how to care for the inner lives of their clients, but how to care for and use their own.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons