Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education

Major Professor

Shawn L. Spurgeon

Committee Members

Casey Barrio Minton, Jennifer Morrow, Marian Roman


Mental health professionals who work at inpatient facilities are at an increased risk of physical attacks from patients (Beech & Leather, 2006; Campbell et al., 2011; GAO, 2016; Gillespie et al., 2010). Research on physical attacks in the human services field has focused on other mental health professionals, such as psychiatric nurses and social workers; research looking specifically at mental health counselors is lacking. The purpose of this qualitative study, through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, was to understand the lived experiences of mental health counselors after a physical attack from a patient. The research interviewed four mental health counselors who experienced a physical attack from one of their patients. Through analysis of the interviews, five main themes emerged: negative patient factors, strong facility reaction, positivity from experience, psychological damage, and assigning blame. Implications for policy and practice were considered and suggestions and recommendations for future research were provided.

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