Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert L. Betz

Second Advisor

Dr. James Croteau

Third Advisor

Dr. Charles Warfield

Fourth Advisor

Dr. James Loew


This study used a qualitative research design to explore the experiences of lesbian women with respect to identity development and career issues.

Using the Stage Allocation Measure (SAM) (Cass, 1984), twenty lesbian women who were in the Synthesis Stage (Stage 6) of identity development were identified. In face-to-face, one and a half to two hour interviews, using a semi-structured interview guide developed by the researcher, respondents were asked open-ended questions about their coming out process and their career development .

Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed and the transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory coding techniques. Themes and patterns were identified which could contribute to knowledge about identity development and career experiences of lesbian women.

Significant findings included the following: (a) there is a complex, interconnecting relationship between the lesbian identity development process and the career development process; (b) the unique experiences of lesbian women in our culture must be specifically addressed by a career development theory that guides career counseling with this population; and (c) the experiences of the respondents support the idea that lesbian identity development is a process that occurs in stages such as those depicted in the Cass (1979) model of gay/lesbian identity development.

Therapists who provide career counseling to lesbians must first acknowledge that sexual orientation is an aspect of personal identity that must be integrated into the career counseling process. Along with this acknowledgment, therapists should provide signs and signals that they understand and affirm lesbian concerns, promote the development of a positive lesbian identity, and recognize and integrate the reality of anti-lesbian stigma.

Counselor training programs should incorporate lesbian and gay issues into all aspects of education including academic studies and practicum experiences.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access