Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Counseling and Educational Leadership

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Amanda L. Baden

Committee Member

Katrina Bulkley

Committee Member

Angela Sheely-Moore

Committee Member

W. Matthew Shurts


Placing a child for adoption can be a life changing experience. Some women who place their children for adoption (birth mothers) report feelings of depression, anxiety, posttrauma, and grief. At times they may feel rejected or isolated. They may view themselves in the negative way that they may be perceived by family, friends, and society in general. All of these feelings and experiences, among many other life experiences, may lead a birth mother to seek and attend counseling. The purpose of this study was to help counselors, researchers, and educators to begin to understand how birth mothers describe their experiences in counseling after they placed a child for adoption. The participants were seven women from various races, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic classes who placed a child for adoption through a private agency or private placement in the United States from 1995 through 2014. This qualitative study was conducted using a phenomenological approach and was based on semi-structured interviews. The Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach to data analysis was utilized in order to obtain a thorough and in-depth understanding of the counseling experiences of these birth mothers. A feminist framework was applied to the findings in order to capture the complex interplay of sociocultural, institutional, and economic forces in the participants’ lives. The findings indicated that these birth mothers felt that their counselors were dismissive of their placement experiences, and that many counselors adhere to common myths about birth mothers and adoption that may be offensive or oversimplify birth mothers’ experiences. Finally, these birth mothers were disheartened and frustrated by their counselors’ ignorance and lack of training. Despite these perceived challenges, these birth mothers were able to find ways to benefit from their post-placement counseling. Suggestions for counselors, counselor educators, and researchers are provided.

Included in

Counseling Commons