Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Alan J. Hovestadt

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Gary H. Bischof


Doctoral students in Counseling Psychology and Counselor Education training programs are commonly thought to experience high levels of stress due to the nature of graduate school (Badali & Habra, 2003). Many (Blount & Mullen, 2015; Meyers, 2015; Moorhead, Gill, Minton, & Myers, 2012; Sawyer, 2013) argue that self-care is an important and necessary topic to discuss and integrate into graduate training. This study quantitatively explores aspects of personality, self-care, and perceived stress levels of graduate students in American Psychological Association (APA) accredited Counseling Psychology doctoral programs and Counselor Education doctoral programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The rationale for this study is to gain a deeper understanding of doctoral students so that topics such as self-care may be addressed by doctoral programs in the future. It is imperative for doctoral students to create healthy self-care habits during training as those habits are likely to continue into their professional life after graduation. A total of 116 students completed a survey consisting of demographic information, self-care frequency questions, the Big Five Inventory, the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale, the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, Semantic Differential Scales, and the Perceived Stress Scale. The data were analyzed using statistical computations including a hierarchical regression, correlations, independent-samples t tests and ANOVA to answer hypotheses.

The major findings in this study include the following: (a) there is an association between mindful acceptance and lower reported perceived stress level; (b) there is an association between higher use of expressive suppression and higher reported perceived stress; (c) there is a positive relationship between the personality factor Agreeableness and self-care frequency; (d) there is a negative relationship between the personality factor Agreeableness and reported perceived stress; and (e) there is a strong correlation between the personality factor Neuroticism and perceived stress. Results indicate there is a negative correlation between perceived stress and mindful acceptance, self-care frequency, and three personality factors, which are agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness. This means that as mindful acceptance, self-care frequency, agreeableness, openness or conscientiousness increase, the reported perceived stress levels decrease. There are positive correlations with perceived stress and suppression and the personality factor neuroticism indicating that graduate students who report higher levels of neuroticism or expressive suppression also reported higher levels of perceived stress. This topic is important because it is likely that graduate students will continue to practice self-care strategies learned during their training program into their professional lives. Essentially, incorporating self-care into graduate programs could alleviate future impairment, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Based on the results of this study, implications, recommendations, and limitations are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Counseling Commons