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Melody R. Weber, Hannah Barnhill Bayne, Ph.D.

Counseling Students’ Lived Experiences Integrating Personal Spirituality & Self-Care

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A qualitative inquiry investigated master’s-level counseling students' lived experiences integrating personal spirituality and self-care strategies. While previous research in the counseling field indicated the importance of both spirituality and self-care for many counseling students, there has been a gap regarding how, if at all, students experience and relate these concepts in their lives (Osborn, Street, & Bradham-cousar, 2012; Thompson, Frick, &Trice-Black, 2011). A qualitative approach was chosen to maintain the contextual elements of the participants' experiences and to provide depth of detail regarding the phenomenon of interest (Hays & Singh, 2012). A phenomenological study was chosen to allow for the "lived experiences" of participants to emerge (Hays & Singh, 2012, p.50). Because Phenomenological research emphasizes "knowledge" as co-constructed between researcher and participants, data were collected through 45-60 minute interviews.  A semi-structured protocol was utilized, which allowed for the same questions to be asked initially, with variation in follow-up questions based on individual participants’ responses. It was hypothesized that Counselors-in-Training who indicated a connection to personal spirituality will also share ways it is integrated with their self-care practices.

Convenience sampling was utilized in this study. Volunteers met participation criteria if they were a current Master's level counseling student and if they self-identified as having personal spirituality.  Three participants were interviewed.  Each participant’s interview was audio recorded, and later transcribed by the Primary Investigator.  The Primary Investigator and two research team members then individually coded each interview, examining the content for topical themes.

Preliminary themes are still being identified and will be emailed individually to interviewees for the opportunity to provide additional input into their interview content, if they desire.  Following individual coding, research team members will also complete consensus coding to synthesize the final themes that have been identified from the interviews.  Some preliminary themes that have been identified thus far include participants’ experiences of congruence between their spirituality and their self-care practices, participants’ feelings of personal spirituality endorsing their need for self-care, participants’ views of the relationship between spirituality and religion, and the impact of life changes on both their spirituality and their self-care.




Hays, D. G. & Singh, A. A. (2012).  Qualitative inquiry in clinical and educational settings. New York, New York: The Guilford Press

Osborn, D., Street, S., & Bradham-Cousar, M. (2012). Spiritual needs and practices of counselor education students. Adultspan Journal, 11(1), 27-38. Retrieved from

Thompson, E. H., Frick, M.H., & Trice-Black, S. (2011). Counselor-in-training perceptions of supervision practices related to self-care and burnout. The Professional Counselor,1,152-162. Retrieved from


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