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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Geniene Michelle Gersh
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Title: Counselors Working in Integrated Primary Behavioral Health and the Influence on Professional Identity: A Phenomenological Study
Dr. Suzanne Hedstrom, Chair
Dr. Gary Bischof
Dr. Lynn Brice
Date: Thursday, October 23, 2008 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
3306 Sangren Hall
Over the past several years there has been a paradigm shift within the primary care delivery system from a traditional medical approach of providing behavioral health services to an integrated primary behavioral health model. This shift in patient care presents new opportunities for professional counselors to assume a role working in the health care arena. Currently there is a lack of research exploring the experiences of counselors working in an integrated primary behavioral health setting. In addition, there is a deficit in the existing counseling literature specifically examining how working in this setting may potentially influence counselor identity. In an effort to inform counselors as well as contribute to the body of literature in the field of counseling and counselor education, this study uses a qualitative approach with phenomenological methodology to examine the professional experiences of six counselors working in an integrated primary behavioral health setting and explores how their experiences influence their identity as a counselor.
The four themes that emerge from the experiences described by the six counselors participating in this study include a discussion of the rewards and challenges of working in an integrated primary behavioral health setting. Participants also identify how their work experiences in an integrated primary behavioral health setting have impacted their counseling skills. In addition, the six participants describe their perceptions of how these work experiences influence their professional identity as a counselor. Influences from the environment and interactions with others emerge as the two universal themes from participants’ descriptions of their work experiences.
Implications for counselors working in an integrated primary behavioral health setting are discussed based upon the reported experiences of the six participants of this study. An exploration of the implications for counselor educators, supervisors, and counselors in training who may consider pursuing a career working in an integrated primary behavioral health care setting are discussed. Implications for health care organizations considering implementation of an integrated care model are offered. Finally, the limitations of this study are described and recommendations for further research inquiry in the area of counselors working in integrated primary care settings are discussed.