Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Related Sciences

First Advisor

Amy Armstrong


Abstract EXPLORING SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS COMMUNITY OUTPATIENT COUNSELORS’ EXPERIENCES TREATING CLIENTS WITH CO-OCCURRING MEDICAL CONDITIONS. AN INTERPRETATIVE PHENOMENOLOGICAL ANALYSIS Lauretta Anne Cathers, Ph.D. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2013 Major Director: Amy Armstrong, PhD, Chair, Rehabilitation Counseling The Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis study presents the findings from a qualitative study examining substance use disorders (SUD) community outpatient treatment counselors’ experiences treating clients with co-occurring medical conditions. Interviews from five SUD community outpatient treatment counselors resulted in four emerging super-ordinate themes. The findings illustrate the relationships between SUDs, medical conditions and other predisposing, enabling and need factors. In order to assist clients in focusing on therapy, counselors work to identify resources to treat the basic needs of the clients, including medical care. Challenges included limited resources, complex system processes, and client fear and apathy. In addition, various unique challenges related to medical conditions treated by potentially habit forming medications and traumatic brain injury were identified. Counselors discussed how their roles and responsibilities have expanded to include case management and additional responsibility for the overall well-being of the clients they serve. They encouraged SUD educators to include more education on counselor self-care, trauma, pain conditions and the assessment process. Implications from the study highlight the need for integrated behavioral and physical health care.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2013