Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2015


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Lisa Lopez Levers

Committee Member

Matthew Bundick

Committee Member

Debra Hyatt-Burkhart


Clinical Resonance, Gestalt (Figure/Ground), Identity, Intentionality, Pedagogy of Counseling, (Professional) Purpose


The purpose of this study was to examine how the ability to articulate a professional purpose informed the lived experiences of master's-level post-practicum students during their practicum experience. This qualitative phenomenologically oriented study used Damon's (2008) definition of purpose, Gestalt principles of figure and ground (Polster & Polster, 1973), van Manen's (1990) four lived existentials, and existing literature regarding the construct of purpose as its theoretical underpinnings. There is no existing literature on how a professional purpose, or the lack of one, factors into a novice counselor's selection of a population with which to work during the practicum experience, and whether the presence or absence of a professional purpose affects the student's ability effectively to perform during the practicum.

For this study, eight master's-level post-practicum students were interviewed regarding their experiences of working with clients at a number of practicum sites. The data were summarized into five themes that included the following: the process of population selection that lacked intentionality, the phenomenon of clinical resonance, the unprepared counselor, the lack of a professional purpose, and the challenge of dealing with resistant clients. The study suggests that the lack of self-awareness evidenced by an inability to articulate a professional purpose leads to a stressful first professional experience. Under such circumstances, overmatched counselors may be drawn to clients who mirror their own unresolved issues, and thus, may fail to provide clients with appropriate care and to receive the supervisory support needed for building clinical skills. The research raises a pedagogical issue related to the need for self-reflection in counselor education programs and suggests that the counseling field should reexamine the distinction between professional and personal development for counseling practitioners. Suggestions are made as to ways to promote self-awareness in counselor training programs so that students will be more likely to formulate a professional purpose, which brings intentionality to population selection that is consistent with the profession's insistence on intentionality in other aspects of counseling practice.