Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Jennifer Foster, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sojeong Nam, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

June Gothberg, Ph.D.


Acculturation process, counseling programs, counseling students, grounded theory, international students


International students bring diverse, multicultural perspectives to the U.S. postsecondary education system through their participation in higher education. However, in their adjustment to U.S. higher education, international students in counseling programs face barriers and challenges such as language differences, lack of support, microaggressions and discrimination, culture shock, and different perspectives on mental health treatment as compared to their home cultures. These factors can interfere with their daily personal and academic lives, yet there is often minimal support from their academic programs and host institutions. The growing number of international students in counseling programs increases the importance of understanding their acculturation process in U.S. higher education institutions. This study aims to generate a theory of international counseling students’ acculturation process using a grounded theory approach that analyzed data collected from 20 (twenty) study participants. Five major themes emerged, including: (1) Life Before the U.S., (2) Motivation for Studying in the U.S., (3) Burst Out of the Bubble, (4) Bridging, and (5) Bridged Cultural Identity. Bridging, which constitutes the focus of the model, is highlighted as a process of transition that encompasses changes, crisis: identity reflections, challenges, cultural differences, context: racial issues in the U.S., and coping mechanisms. The study's implications for counselor training programs, counselors, and other international students are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access