Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Craig

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Foster

Third Advisor

Dr. Chris Coryn


Gatekeeping, counselor education, doctoral students, clinical supervision, teaching, professional roles


This phenomenological study sought to understand and describe the gatekeeping experiences of counselor education doctoral students and enumerate key influences in their learning and development. A national sample of 75 doctoral students responded to the descriptive pre-screening survey, and a sub-sample of 15 completed semi-structured interviews. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, two overarching or meta-themes and five main themes were identified pertaining to how doctoral students view their role as gatekeeper and how they learn and experience gatekeeping. Meta-themes included doctoral students feeling “in the middle”, especially between faculty and master’s students, and how they are working to address these uncertainties, called Navigating the Grey Spaces of Gatekeeper Development. Major themes were Perceptions of the Gatekeeper Role, Professional Relationships, Gatekeeper Contexts, Assessing Professional Competence, and Ways of Learning. Perceptions of the Gatekeeper Role revealed differences between how participants viewed gatekeeping as doctoral students and gatekeeping as future faculty for the profession. Professional Relationships described the influence of multiple roles, cultural contexts, and power dynamics doctoral students encounter as developing gatekeepers, and Gatekeeper Contexts described supervision and teaching environments where gatekeeping occurred. Assessing Professional Competence enumerates the various theoretical and practical influences in working with trainees, such as developmental approaches and informal and formal assessments. Ways of Learning identified that role models and experience with gatekeeping were most helpful for developing gatekeepers but revealed concerns about who is gatekeeping the gatekeepers. Implications for counselor education programs, faculty, students, and other stakeholders are discussed, such as the need for increased use and involvement of doctoral students as gatekeepers, clearer expectations and supports for doctoral gatekeepers, and increased conversations around gatekeeping in content courses. Directions for future research are also discussed; there is a need for studies addressing cultural dynamics in gatekeeping and gatekeeper development and the gatekeeper development of neophyte faculty.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access