Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Donna Gibson

Second Advisor

Dr. Abigail Conley

Third Advisor

Dr. Philip Gnilka

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Brendan Dwyer


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to investigate the lived experiences of academic advisors who have master’s degrees in counseling in addressing wellness with college student-athletes. Of particular note was to explore if they addressed wellness and, if so, how they addressed wellness. Extant literature is replete with evidence documenting the numerous challenges and stressors student-athletes experience due to their athlete status. Prior to this study, the role of the academic advisor in addressing wellness has not been represented in the literature. This study examined the lived experiences of 10 academic advisors with counseling degrees, or currently enrolled in graduate level counselor education programs, in addressing wellness with college student-athletes through semi-structured individual interviews. Results from the data analysis yielded four themes and seven sub-themes: Academic Skills and Planning, Counselor Practice and Knowledge (emphasis on fostering relationships, counseling skills and theory, and athletic empathy), Barriers to Seeking Support Services, and Cultivating Holistic Wellness in Student-Athletes (career and life skill development, psychological support, coach-advisor relationship, and case management). The findings suggest that academic advisors are addressing wellness with their college student-athletes. Moreover, the results provide specific insights as to how academic advisors utilize their counseling skills when providing wellness services. These results provide several implications for counseling programs, academic advising, and athletic departments. Suggestions for future research are also included.


© Jennifer M. Gerlach

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission