Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Counselor Education

Major Professor

Melinda M. Gibbons

Committee Members

Shawn L. Spurgeon, Jacob Leavy, Lisa Yamagata-Lynch

Abstract

Counselor educators aid counselors-in-training (CITs) in the process of professional identity development, which has its own challenges, such as managing anxiety and increasing self-awareness. One way proposed to enhance these therapeutic challenges is mindfulness. However, most research examining mindfulness in counselor education to-date lacks a standard theoretical framework, which may cause counselors to diminish the value of mindfulness in counselor training. One theory-driven concept of mindfulness comes from ACT, an empirically validated approach to counseling. It is possible that ACT could serve as a common language for educators to use when implementing mindfulness into counselor training, and thus, there is need for more support for the use of ACT tenets within counselor education. Being present, defusion, and emotional acceptance are constructs that feed into the ACT overall goal of psychological flexibility. Explicitly, these elements of ACT – which focus on opening up the individual – could be helpful in progressing CIT development. A needed first step is to determine whether or not the enactment of ACT principles differ in CITs who have a mindfulness practice versus those who do not. Additionally, this quantitative study assessed how the ACT principles of present moment awareness, cognitive defusion, and acceptance contribute to psychological flexibility. First, it was determined there is no difference between mindfulness practitioners and nonpractitioners on ACT constructs except for mindfulness. Overall, CITs demonstrated high levels of mindfulness. Second, a correlational analysis identified that there was a significant relationship between mindfulness, cognitive fusion, emotion regulation, and psychological flexibility, all in the predicted directions. Third, a standard multiple regression identified mindfulness, cognitive fusion, and emotion regulation as predictor variables of psychological flexibility. Discussion includes findings, implications for education, clinical practice and future research.

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