Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services



Committee Director

Ed Neukrug

Committee Member

Angela Eckhoff

Committee Member

Mark Rehfuss


This study explores the professional identity of clinical mental health counselors employed as correctional counselors in an integrated behavioral health (IBH) setting. Previous research has documented the attitudes, perceptions, and experiences of mental health counselors working in IBH as well as their experiences engaging in interprofessional collaboration. However, researchers have yet to explore how clinical mental health counselors in correctional settings perceive their professional identity and what aspects of their professional roles impact their identity development. This study utilized an interpretive phenomenological approach (IPA) to describe, understand, and interpret the meaning of four correctional counselors’ perceptions of their professional identities while operating in a Southeastern County jail. The researcher utilized individual interviews and audio/video logs to collect data on participants’ experiences. Data was analyzed using Smith and colleagues’ (2009) six step process of IPA data analysis. Key findings indicated that correctional counselors’ unique work environment, collaborative work relationships, and multiple foci of their mental health role contributed to professional growth and identity development. Additionally, participants experienced a transitional process where they adapted their counseling styles to the needs of the setting and population as well as integrated their experiences as correctional counselors into their pre-existing professional identities.


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