Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services



Committee Director

Jeffry Moe

Committee Member

Mark Rehfuss

Committee Member

Lauren Robins

Committee Member

Rawn Boulden


COVID-19’s classification as a pandemic in March 2020 changed numerous professions as they adjusted to social distancing expectations. Mental health providers particularly encountered transitions that included higher acuity caseloads, working different hours, and increased exposure to COVID-19. Counselors-in-training (CIT) faced the dilemma of earning their clinical hours in a safe manner, especially CITs working within integrated healthcare settings, such as hospitals or clinics. Despite some research with licensed professional counselors, limited research exists examining CITs' experiences working during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study sought to understand the lived experiences of CITs who completed their clinical hours in an integrated behavioral healthcare (IBH) setting during COVID-19. The researcher used a phenomenological investigation to explore how CITs coped during their clinical experience of practicum and/or internship and used both individual interviews and a focus group to gather data. Data analysis encompassed Moustaka’s Modification of van Kaam’s Phenomenological Analysis to construct organized meaning to the responses, and results indicated three meta-themes: 1) adaptability within IBH practicum and internship during COVID-19, 2) CITs’ increased sense of belonging in IBH, and 3) development and growth. Trustworthiness procedures involved researcher reflexivity, member checking, audit trail, and external inquiry audit. Implications include the need for additional IBH training and coursework and an increased understanding of CITs’ coping responses and competency with grief, loss, and collective trauma. Limitations involved possible social desirability and recall biases, and future directions include specific avenues for advancing counseling and counselor education related to P&I and the COVID-19 aftermath.


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