Eric W. Owens

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Lisa Lopez Levers

Committee Member

Joseph Maola

Committee Member

Ronald Lunardini


Counseling, Counselor Education, Crisis Intervention, Paraprofessional Counselor, Peer Counseling, Resident Assistant


Counseling and helping services on college campuses have changed greatly in recent decades, yet the services provided by college counseling centers are hardly keeping pace. Campuses have turned to other means of addressing the increased need for helping services, including training paraprofessionals to address many counseling and crisis situations that occur on college campuses. One of the most ubiquitous groups of paraprofessional helpers are resident assistants, undergraduate students trained to work with students living on campus who present with counseling or crisis intervention needs.

The concerns students bring to resident assistants are often beyond the scope of their training and experience; yet, these undergraduates are still expected to serve as the first responders on most college campuses. The literature is devoid of current, qualitative studies that examine what Figley (1995) described as the "cost of caring" (p. 10). The purpose of this study was to examine, qualitatively, the lived experience of resident assistants during their service as paraprofessional counselors and crisis interventionists. Using purposeful and extreme case sampling, nine resident assistants served as key informants for this study. Data were collected through the use of individual, semistructured interviews.

The researcher conducted the introductory data analysis while the interviews were being conducted. These data were reduced, displayed, and conclusions were drawn. As subsequent interviews were conducted, the researcher continued to analyze the data until all interviews were completed. Following the data collection, the data were again analyzed through the processes of reduction and display. Through this iterative and recursive process, themes emerged and conclusions were drawn.

The individual and cross-case analyses yielded eight primary themes and four secondary themes. These themes related to the risk and protective factors inherent in the position, as described by Bronfenbrenner (1979, 2005). The emergent themes also spoke to training, supervision, boundaries, and the long-term effects of being a resident assistant, specific to the peer counseling and crisis intervention roles. The researcher examined and discussed the interrelationships between the various themes. Finally, the analysis yielded potential hypotheses, and implications were discussed for both future research and practice.