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

Dana Heller Levitt

Committee Member

Harriet Glosoff

Committee Member

Leslie Kooyman

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr


This was a qualitative study exploring the experiences of counselors working with clients who are coping with an advanced illness and approaching end of life. The study focused on the risks and benefits of fostering relationships with end of life clients, with an emphasis on how these practitioners process their experiences. While supporting clients at end of life, these professionals often were impacted by the deaths of people who they had worked with for varying lengths of time.

The findings suggest that these counselors experienced many of the same issues that have been documented by other helping professions, and that they developed a means of sustaining themselves through emotionally turbulent times. The participants in this study leveraged their spirituality, connections and boundaries to meet their need for psychological safety, while using the experience to cultivate the unexpected gifts of the work. In the final analysis it was determined that a combination of psychological safety and unexpected gifts created a cycle of sustainability.