Amy L. Barth

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Rheineck, Jane E.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Counseling Psychology; Counseling psychologists; Counseling psychologist and client; Counseling psychology--Practice


This qualitative research study explored how counselors experience the development of a personal guiding theory of counseling. How counselors define their personal guiding theory, what factors have influenced their development, and how they incorporate their personal guiding theory into their counseling with clients was examined. Thirteen participants were recruited through reputational and snowball sampling. All participants held at least a master's degree in counseling, were a licensed counselor in their state of practice, and had at least 10 years of counseling experience. Participants engaged in a 2-part interview process following Seidman's Interview Structure. Portraiture methodology was used to analyze the data. Findings reveal that the counselors in this study constructed their personal guiding theory around different core components including personal philosophy or belief system, faith system, specific theoretical approaches, and focus on techniques used with each client. Additionally, various personal and professional factors were identified that influenced guiding theory development for each participant in different ways. Finally, the findings highlight the importance of the counseling relationship in the counseling process. It is through the counseling relationship that counselors incorporate their personal guiding theory of counseling into their work with clients. Recommendations are offered for counseling practice, counselor education, and research on personal guiding theory development. Research has demonstrated that having a personal guiding theory as the foundation of a counselor's counseling practice is important. Given the complexity of this developmental process and numerous factors involved, recommendations are given for research in order to understand the developmental process of a personal guiding theory of counseling.


Advisors: Jane Rheineck.||Committee members: Laura R. Johnson; Charles Myers.


215 pages




Northern Illinois University

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