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


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


A. Renee Staton

Robin Anderson

Amanda Evans


The discrepancies in racial and ethnic demographics between counselors, counselor educators, and the clients they seek to serve are prominent (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2018). Mental health counseling and the field of psychology have a traditionally Eurocentric value system that has positioned the White population to benefit from services and to become clinicians. As such, the centering of the White experience has perpetuated a lack of diversity in the field. As the demographics of the United States population continues to diversify, counseling needs to produce a greater number of racially and ethnically minoritized counselors to meet the needs of a more diverse client population.

Generating more diversity in counselor education programs will require a number of initiatives. The present study looks at current racially and ethnically minoritized students’ experiences of belonging and social fit in their master’s counseling training programs. This phenomenological mixed methods study looks at the phenomenon of belonging and social fit utilizing quantitative measures such as the Sense of Belonging scale and the Sense of Social Fit scale, both developed at Stanford University (n.d.a., n.d.b.). The qualitative open-ended responses and subsequent interviews give depth to the data and allow participants’ voices to elaborate on the phenomenon of belonging in counselor education programs. The aim of the current study is to give voice to racially and ethnically minoritized students’ experiences in an effort to develop actionable items for counselor educators, counselor education programs, and the counselor education field. These actionable items will increase the sense of belonging and the sense of social fit, promoting an environment conducive to learning for racially and ethnically minoritized students. In doing so, the goal is to increase enrollment and retention in these programs to produce a more diverse counseling field of clinicians. The results of this study overlap with existing literature on sense of belonging and social fit in higher education as well as emergent themes that have not yet been identified in previous research. The results of the current study, including existing themes, emergent themes, and participants’ voices will be presented here. Implications for counselor educators, counselor education programs, and the field of counselor education will be discussed.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.