Date of Award

June 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nicole R. Hill


Counselor Education, Disability Counseling Competence, Disability Studies, Grounded Theory, Multicultural Competence


Clients with disabilities engage in counseling services in a variety of settings. Given the counseling profession’s emphasis in social responsiveness to multicultural issues and social justice, professional counselors are equipped with training and clinical experience that prepare them to meet these clients’ counseling needs. The counseling literature highlights the pervasive absence of disability across counselor curriculum and the training paucities in counselor preparation to work with clients with disabilities. This qualitative study utilized the grounded theory tradition to illuminate the categories, properties, and dimensions involved in licensed professional counselors’ perceptions of their development of disability counseling competence. This study involved a sample of twenty licensed professional counselors who graduated from CACREP-accredited programs and who had clients with disabilities by the time of the study. Participants’ perceptions of their development of disability counseling competence accounted for a core category of Evolving Commitments to their role of professional counselors and to their diverse clients. This central category explained further analytic themes related to the therapeutic work, connection to the community, and the impact of systemic dimensions in the clinical practice. Several measures were taken in order to ensure trustworthiness and credibility of the results. Implications for counselor training programs, clinical supervisors, clinical practice, and professional organizations are discussed along with future research recommendations.


Open Access