Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Abigail Conley

Second Advisor

Philip Gnilka

Third Advisor

David Naff

Fourth Advisor

Donna Dockery


The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the lived experiences of religiously and spiritually diverse counselors and psychotherapists who work with survivors of sexual violence. The researcher used a transcendental phenomenological approach to understand how the participants engaged their religious and/or spiritual identity to cope with the traumatic stress that accompanies continuous exposure to their clients’ trauma narratives over time. As the only study that has examined these phenomena qualitatively, the present study aimed to enhance counselors and counselor educators’ understanding of the ways that religiously and spiritually diverse counselors make meaning of their experiences. The researcher collected data through 11 interviews with actively practicing counselors and psychotherapists who have worked with survivors of sexual violence for a significant portion of their practice for at least two years. The data analysis showcased both similarities and significant differences in experiences that resulted in five themes: 1) adverse psychological consequences, 2) faith changes, 3) religion as a barrier, 4) intersecting identities, and 5) growth and resilience. These themes are discussed in detail and implications for counselors and educators are provided. This study’s limitations and recommendations for future research are also discussed.


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Date of Submission