Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Fickling, Melissa J.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


There is a lack of research on practicing counselors and how personal and painful experiences, such as grief, influence their identity. Grief can impact counselors’ wellness and result in emotional impairment. CACREP standards do not require training in grief counseling. Thus, there are vacancies in understanding the influence of grief and a lack of preparation in navigation and dialogue of grief in counselor education programs. This qualitative study explored the phenomenological experiences of how grief influences counselor identity. The methodology used in this study was photovoice with interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Photovoice allowed participants to describe their experiences through their own lens by capturing photographs and IPA strengthened this methodology to illuminate the meaning reconstruction process of participants. The major findings demonstrated that grief and meaning making of counselors is active, relational, and driven by understanding emotions. Participants experienced social validation for their changed selves when they observed an enhancement of their counseling skills; therefore, they viewed their grief with a positive or meaningful underpinning and informing their counselor identity. The findings, implications for counselors, supervisors, and counselor education are discussed and suggestion are made for future research.


195 pages




Northern Illinois University

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In Copyright

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NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type