Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Jennifer M. Foster, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Glinda J. Rawls, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

June E. Gothberg, Ph.D.


Coping, counseling, Latinx, Mexican American, stress


Empirical literature indicates that current mental health practices with Mexican American college students are lacking. Mexican American undergraduates have unique challenges that need to be addressed by counselors within the university context and in community settings. This study addressed the dearth of empirical literature on stressors and coping strategies by exploring the experiences of Mexican American students at a predominately White institution (PWI) in the Midwest region of the United States. Through grounded theory, a theory was generated from multiple in-depth interviews using a comparative analysis process to enhance understanding of how Mexican American college undergraduates at PWIs cope with stressors. There was a total of 11 participants, 5 females and 6 males. This study sought to answer these research questions: (1) How do Mexican American college students cope with stressors? (a) What influences their coping processes? (b) What values are connected to their coping? (c) What type of stressors do they experience? (d) How do their coping processes vary? (e) What are the most common coping strategies?

The themes of this study were connected, forming a theory grounded by the data. The participants’ secure ethnic identity made it easier to seek social support within their Latinx community and adapt to their environment. Their secure ethnic identity was fluid, depending on their context and Mexican-leaning. Their Mexican American values of familismo, personalism collectivism, and achievement may have served as protective factors against stress. Stress was described as worry, coping was described as solutions and cognitive coping, and discrimination was defined as different treatment. The most challenging stressor reported was family-related. The discrimination stressors included microaggressions to systemic racism. Discrimination elicited short-term stress and emotions. Participants coped by cognitively coping. Then, the participants had a behavioral response by self-advocating, avoiding the perpetrator, and seeking social support. The most common pre-pandemic stressor was being in a PWI due to seeking a sense of belonging on campus. Almost all participants were involved in a Latinx-based organization, so they eventually found a community at their PWI. The most common stressors were adapting to change and grief and loss during the pandemic. The participants experienced long-term stress and feelings of depression, burnout, and fear. Then, the participants increased distraction coping (short-term) and decreased their usual coping strategies. Sometime after the pandemic started, the participants could expand their coping strategies and use their usual coping strategies. Overall, the most common coping strategies were cognitive coping and seeking social support.

This research provides the counselor education field and those they serve with enhanced training to prepare effective, culturally competent counselors and counselor educators. Implications and future research recommendations are offered.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access