The Experience of Wellness for Counselor Education Doctoral Students Who Are Mothers in the Southeastern Region of the United States

By Pierce, Latoya Anderson; Herlihy, Barbara | Journal of International Women's Studies, July 2013 | Go to article overview

The Experience of Wellness for Counselor Education Doctoral Students Who Are Mothers in the Southeastern Region of the United States


Pierce, Latoya Anderson, Herlihy, Barbara, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the experience of wellness in counselor education doctoral students who are mothers of children under the age of 18. Seven participants from universities in the southeastern region of the United States completed two rounds of interviews and one focus group. Participants were at varying stages of motherhood and different points in their doctoral journeys. Findings included participants' views of motherhood and womanhood, sacrifices and rewards, counselor education program support, wellness, and dissonance of multiple roles. Findings were compared within and across cases using themes and categories. Suggestions for further research as well as implications for this population and counselor education are offered.

Keywords: wellness, mothers, counselor education, qualitative

Introduction

One hallmark of the counseling profession is adherence to the wellness model. Counselors believe that the wellness model of mental health is "the best perspective for helping people resolve their personal and emotional issues and problems" (Remley & Herlihy, 2010, p. 26). Mental health functions on a scale between mentally healthy and dysfunctional. This mental health scale also takes into consideration a systemic outlook on the varying factors that may contribute to a person's overall mental health (e.g. family, career, spirituality).

As an alternative to the traditional medical model which focuses strictly on the physical and biological aspects of disease, Myers, Sweeney, and Witmer (2000) defined the concept of wellness as "a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live more fully within the human and natural community" (.13. 252). Roscoe (2009) provided a synopsis of the multidimensional aspects of wellness. Some of the components summarized include social wellness, emotional wellness, physical wellness, spiritual wellness, and psychological wellness. "Social wellness encompasses the quality and extent of interaction with others and the interdependence between the individual, others, the community, and nature" (Roscoe, 2009, p. 218). This definition emphasizes Adler's idea that people typically desire a sense of belongingness. Emotional wellness is defined as "awareness and control of feelings, as well as a realistic, positive, and developmental view of the self, conflict, and life circumstances" (Roscoe, 2009, p. 219). Physical wellness focuses on nutrition, physical activity, self-care and healthy lifestyle choices (Roscoe, 2009). Spiritual wellness is "the innate and continual process of finding meaning and purpose in life ..." (Roscoe, 2009, p. 221). Psychological wellness can be closely linked to the positive psychology movement in that is emphasized a person's sense of optimism related to life's events and experiences.

Because the "underlying philosophy of counselor preparation rests on a foundation of wellness for professionals and professionals-in-training" (Myers, Mobley, & Booth, 2003, p. 273), both counselor educators and doctoral students who aspire to be counselor educators have a responsibility to maintain personal wellness. In Section C of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, the introduction states "... counselors engage in self care activities to maintain and promote their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being to best meet their professional responsibilities" (ACA Code of Ethics, 2005). Doctoral students in counselor education should be attuned to wellness or form a wellness routine during their doctoral studies. Yet, attending to personal wellness may be particularly challenging for doctoral students who are also parents of children under the age of 18. They may struggle with balancing the multiple demands of graduate studies and parenting, along with work, family, and social obligations. …

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