Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education

Major Professor

Joel F. Diambra

Committee Members

Casey A. Barrio Minton, Elizabeth I. Johnson, Laura S. Wheat


As beginning counselors leave the structured support of graduate school and enter the workplace, they often experience a turbulent transition (Ronnestad & Skovholt, 2003). Professional and personal relationships play a significant role in counselors’ developmental experiences during this transitional period (Skovholt & Trotter-Mathison, 2011). However, few existing research studies examine the experiences of beginning counselors, and studies focusing on developmentally-focused relationships of beginning counselors are even more sparse. The purpose of this study was to investigate and describe the experiences of beginning counselors as they engage in and seek interpersonal supports, including their expressed needs and goals, the makeup of their developmental networks, and their perspective of the professional-social environmental factors influencing their development. I utilized a qualitative content analysis to examine the experiences, garnered using semi-structured interviews, of 12 beginning counselors regarding their developmental networks and interpersonal support. I identified five major themes: Context of Personal-Professional Identity; Adjustment/Transition; Growth Orientation; Network organization; and Connective Tissue. Findings generally supported conceptualizations of beginning counselors in Ronnestad and Skovholt’s (2003) counselor development theory and offered mixed support for constructs within Higgins and Kram’s (2001) developmental network model. Implications include recommended methods for counselor educators to promote effective developmental relationships in and outside of the classroom and suggestions for established clinical professionals to foster welcoming workplace environments that ease new counselors’ transition from training to practice. I conclude with suggestions for future research.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."