Studies indicate that bereavement is a more commonly experienced phenomenon among traditional aged college students than is generally assumed (Balk, 2008). In addition to their unique developmental tasks, bereaved students are also burdened with additional stressors, such as pressure to stay academically strong, sense of social isolation, as well as psychological and physical disturbances triggered by the death loss (Neimeyer, Laurie, Mehta, Hardison, & Currier, 2008; Stroebe, Schut, & Stroebe, 2007). The present study aimed to explore four research questions associated with grief counseling best practices in university settings. These questions are: 1) How did clinicians become interested in the area of grief and loss (origin of interest)?; 2) How prepared are UCCs in supporting grieving students (current preparedness)? 3) What are the criteria for grief counseling best practices at UCCs (areas of grief counseling best practices)?; and 4) What can UCCs and their grief specialists do to provide best practices in supporting grieving students (future directions)? After obtaining approval from the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board, a total of 38 university counseling clinicians with special interests in grief counseling were invited to participate in the current study. Eight participants completed a 60-90 minute semi-structured phone interview, consisting of six demographic questions and 10 interview questions related to the research questions. The data were qualitatively analyzed with a team of researchers, following the Consensual Qualitative Research method (CQR; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997; Hill et al., 2005). As a result, nine major themes, called domains, were rendered. These domains were the following: Domain 1: Origin Of Interest; Domain 2: Grief Counseling Training And Preparation; Domain 3: Available Grief Support; Domain 4: Therapist's Characteristics; Domain 5: College-Specific; Domain 6: Perception Of Readiness; Domain 7: Importance Of Grief Services; Domain 8: Areas Of Grief Counseling Best Practices; and Domain 9: Future Directions. In the discussion section, clinical implications of the results are addressed under the framework of the four research questions. For Origin of Interest, the results suggested that both personal and professional events contributed to the development of participants' interest in grief counseling. In particular, participants highlighted the influence of unplanned life events. For Current Preparedness, participants noted mixed levels of preparedness, both within themselves and for sites. Limited resources and staff availability were frequently addressed across participants. For Best Practices, the results indicated eight areas of grief counseling best practices: 1) Self-Awareness, 2) Debunking Myths, 3) Self-Care, 4) Emotional Tolerance, 5) Staying Current with Grief Education and Training, 6) Multicultural Competencies, 7) Assessment, and 8) Comprehensive Support. These suggested areas were examined in relation to the findings of existing literature. Lastly, Future Directions of grief counseling best practice were discussed. The results indicated four areas of improvement, including Grief Groups, Grief Training, Collaborations with Other Offices, and Outreach and Workshops. Specific suggestions and possible challenges in making proposed changes were further discussed. Limitations of the present study and suggestions for future research were also discussed.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2015. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Sherri Turner. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 134 pages.
Kim, Yang-Hyang (Ryoka).
Grief Counseling Best Practices at University Counseling Centers: Current Preparedness and Future Directions.
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