Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Dana Heller Levitt

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Leslie Kooyman


Utilizing a qualitative approach informed by narrative inquiry, this study considered the ways in which eight crisis counselors working in behavioral health emergency settings make meaning of their experiences. Participant narratives focused on the intense, multidimensional, and often emotionally demanding nature of crisis work, something they understood to be inherent to working within these settings. The findings revealed that these crisis counselors often felt isolated, unsupported, and unprepared for their positions, leaving them to negotiate the demands of the work and to make meaning of their experiences on their own. Participants developed various methods of coping, yet these techniques were not always enough to protect them from the negative effects of crisis work. In these situations, participants experienced many of the same issues documented in other helping professions, including feelings of countertransference and vicarious trauma. Participant narratives also uncovered the experience of moral injury, an emerging area of study among healthcare workers but one that has remained largely neglected in the counseling literature. The findings suggest that crisis counselors are well aware of the risks of working with clients experiencing behavioral health emergencies but continue in these roles out of a sense of purpose and appreciation for the newfound perspective the work affords them. The study provides important insights into the understudied world of crisis work, and provides implications that help to inform best practice for counselors, clinical supervisors, and counselor educators.

File Format


Included in

Counseling Commons