Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education

Major Professor

Melinda M. Gibbons

Committee Members

Joel F. Diambra, Shawn L. Spurgeon, Priscilla Blanton


When supervision moves beyond poor oversight to inciting personal and professional impairment, it becomes harmful. Although there is much in the literature regarding ineffective supervision in general, empirical data explicating harmful supervision is significantly less available. In fact, the negative effects of harmful supervision may be notably more severe than those reported of ineffective supervision (Unger, 1995). The purpose of this study was to provide rich description and meaning of beginning counselors’ experiences in harmful supervision. The research question addressed was, “What is the lived experience of beginning counselors in harmful supervision?” Transcendental, existential phenomenology (van Manen, 2014; Thomas & Pollio, 2002) was the chosen method utilized to investigate seven participants’ subjective experiences of harmful supervision during their mental health practicum and/or internship training with site and faculty supervisors. The Integrated Developmental Model (IDM; Stoltenberg, McNeill, & Delworth, 1998) was used to highlight beginning supervisees’ developmental needs and vulnerability to harmful supervision. The significance of the study is two fold. First, I reviewed the previous literature and offered a reconceptualization explaining the outcomes of supervision as influenced by the supervisory relationship, with contributions from both the supervisor and supervisee. Second, the current research identified a detailed description of harmful supervision, as called for by Ellis (2001). Strategies for the prevention and management of harmful supervision for supervisees, supervisors, and counselor educators are provided. Finally, recommendations for future research are outlined.

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