Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Suzanne M. Hedstrom

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Craig

Third Advisor

Dr. Douglas V. Davidson


adolescent, qualitative, counselor disclosure, socioeconomic, counseling relationships


The ACA Code of Ethics (2005) states the expectation that counselors must understand the diverse backgrounds of their clients. In addition, counselors are called to understand how their personal cultural identity informs and affects the counseling process. Yet there is paucity in the literature regarding the multicultural client experience within a counseling relationship. Of the few multicultural counseling studies that attempt to address multicultural client concerns, the approach has been quantitative or reliant on counselor self-report. In addition, the lived counseling experiences of adolescents and individuals from lower socioeconomic status (SES) is absent in present literature. This qualitative study examined the counseling experiences of eight adolescents, four participants from Michigan and four from Alaska. The participants ranged from age 16-20 and must have self-identified as being a member of a racial/ethnic minority group. Participants were interviewed about their experiences in a counseling or therapy lasting four or more sessions. Through analyzing narrative using an Interpretive Phenomenological Approach, this study explored how adolescents respond, think, and process their own racial/ethnic, SES, and age identity within and during the counseling relationship. Analysis of the participant transcripts resulted in three main themes: (1) factors of counselor/therapist alliance, (2) control of counseling/therapy, and (3) recognizing identity. Exploration of the main themes resulted in the identification of several subordinate themes: disengagement through perceived judgment, feeling understood and known, issues of privacy and confidentiality, counselor exerting force, response to the counselor/therapist process, self-identity, and identity in relation to my counselor. The study’s finding revealed that counselors heavily utilize personal and self-involving disclosure. Analysis of the data supports the presence of a third type of unintended counselor self-disclosure identified as client perceived disclosure. Clients gather information about counselor beliefs, cognitions, and financial status to evaluate the counselor, counselor status in relation to themselves, counseling efficacy, and beliefs about their own identity. This study gives voice to a population underrepresented in counseling literature by examining adolescent participants from a racial/ethnic minority who are from lower SES backgrounds. The study’s findings may assist counselors in greater self-awareness in their own multicultural counseling approaches. Recommendations for future research are provided.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access