Date of Award

Winter 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services


Counselor Education and Supervision

Committee Director

Christine Ward

Committee Member

Garrett McAuliffe

Committee Member

Shana Pribesh


The relationship between doctoral students and their chairperson has been linked to students' successful completion of their dissertation and program of study (Gardner, 2009; Lovitts, 2001). It is often the case that failure to complete the dissertation is what prevents doctoral students from completing their degree. When students do not successfully complete their degrees, attrition rates rise and programs and students feel the burden, both financially and as an investment of time. (Bair & Haworth, 2004). Studies indicate that many students fall short of completing the dissertation, or take much longer than expected, due to a lack of supervision or mentorship (Garcia, Malott, & Brethower, 1988). Specifically, the single most frequent finding in a meta-synthesis study addressing doctoral attrition across 118 research studies was that successful degree completion is related to the amount and quality of contact between a doctoral student and her or his advisor (Bair & Haworth, 2004). The current study followed a non-experimental survey research design. The survey was developed by the researcher based on previous literature on dissertation advising, as well as from themes generalized from a qualitative pilot study that examined criteria used by recent counseling Ph.D. graduates to select their dissertation chairperson. The survey assessed counseling doctoral students' and recent graduates' perceived overall satisfaction with their dissertation chairperson. Additionally, the study examined criteria used by students when selecting their chairperson as well as perceived chairperson behaviors as predictors of overall satisfaction. Demographic variables of the doctoral students were also examined. A sample of counselor education doctoral students (N = 133), both past and present, participated in the current study. Results indicate that the selection criteria component, Collaborative Style, and the chairperson behavior components, Personal Connection and Work Style, were most influential in predicting counseling doctoral students' overall satisfaction with their dissertation chairperson. Additionally, students who self-selected their dissertation chairs were shown to be more satisfied overall than their counterparts who were assigned their chairperson. Significant differences were not found in the demographic variables. Recommendations for further research and implications of the findings are discussed.


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