Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Suzanne M. Hedstrom


Over the past decade there has been increased discussion in the counselor education literature regarding the personal limitations and/or impairments of counselors that may hinder their abilities to provide competent services. Although counseling ethical codes and standards of practice suggest competent counselors are those who demonstrate both professional and personal skills and counselor educators have explored numerous training methods to promote such development, the concern about impaired counselors remains. There is minimal information in the literature that describes how counselors in training develop personal attitudes, skills, and characteristics that may prevent their impairment and facilitate their competency with their clientele. The purpose of this study was to explore six counselor trainees' experiences of personal growth and development using phenomenological and life story methodologies to gather descriptive and detailed accounts of their personal growth and how it intersects with their professional development. Participants were asked in two interviews to share detailed experiences from their lives that contributed to their developing personal skills and characteristics. Their life stories were explored to gain understanding about their self perceptions and the events that have shaped them. Phenomenological methodology revealed two universal themes that emerged from participants' experiences. Participants discussed their experiences in graduate counselor training that contributed to their personal growth and development that included relationships with their colleagues and faculty and aspects within their internship/practicum. Participants also discussed factors that contributed to their development out of training including personal challenges, supportive events, and experiences with diverse groups. Implications for counselor educators, supervisors, and counselors in training are discussed based on the participants' experiences and life stories. Limitations of this study and recommendations for future research regarding counselor trainee personal growth and development are also discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access