Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Angela R. Staton

Debbie C. Sturm

Robin D. Anderson


There are 42 million foreign-born individuals residing in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013), making up a total of 13% of the population. Within the counseling profession, the latest demographic information (Data USA, 2017) reports that Caucasians make up 70.4% of counselors in the United States while African Americans make up 19.5%, Asians 3.4%, and shared ethnicity is 3 %. American Indians make up 0.6%, Hawaiian 0.1%, and the remainder (2.8%) are identified as “other.” The immigration experience is marked by a sense of loss and a process of acculturation. However, there is scant literature that discusses the adjustment experiences of immigrant counselors (Kissil, Niño, & Davey, 2013), particularly examining acculturation and professional identity development. The purpose of this study was to provide insights on whether acculturation impacts professional identity and explore the overall acculturative and professional identity development experiences of foreign-born individuals in the counseling profession. A sequential explanatory mixed-methods design was used. The quantitative portion of the study was completed by 60 online participants. From those who participated, 37 fully completed the survey (N = 37). Professional identity was measured using the Professional Identity Scale in Counseling (Woo, 2013) and acculturation was measured using the American International Relations Scale (Sodowsky & Plake, 1991). Follow up phone interviews were conducted with 6 participants. Quantitative findings for this study suggest that while no significant correlation exists between overall acculturation scores as measured by the American International Relations Scale (AIRS) and professional identity scores as measured by the Professional Identity Scale in Counseling (PISC), several significant relationships were found between demographic variables. Thematic findings from the interviews are discussed and provide a rich understanding of acculturation being a dynamic process as well as the simultaneous nature of professional identity development and acculturation. Limitations are examined in detail with recommendations for future direction. Implications specific to counselor education were sorted into five categories: Continuous acculturation, foreigner imposter syndrome, boxed identity, western training philosophy, and promoting and diversifying the counseling field.



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