Date of Award

Fall 1-6-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Gregory L. Brack, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Catherine J. Brack, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Roger O. Weed, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jonathan J. Orr, Ph.D.


Wellness has been identified as one of the primary goals in the counseling profession (Myers, 1992; Myers & Sweeney, 2005; Roscoe, 2009). Although wellness is one of the main goals of counseling, and there has been a plethora of research on wellness, there is a scarcity of wellness research focused on counselors, and counselors in training (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). Research on racial discrimination and microaggressions in students, as well as faculty in higher education suggests that many colleges and universities are hostile settings for people of color (Bradley & Holcomb-McCoy, 2004; Salazar, 2009; Salazar et al., 2004). Day to day experience with racial microaggressions can be detrimental to the well-being of people of color (Sue, Lin, Torino, Capodilupo, & Rivera, 2009; Troxel et al., 2003). This study utilized qualitative methods to examine the perceived relationship between racial microaggressions and wellness in female graduate students of color. A phenomenological approach (Creswell, 2007; Moustakas, 1994) guided this methodology. Participants included seven African American and one Latina American females who were enrolled in CACREP accredited counselor education doctoral programs in one region of the United States. Participants were interviewed face to face and/or by phone in two rounds of interviews. Interview questions addressed participants’ experiences, their definitions of wellness, and their perceptions of the relationship between wellness and racial microaggressions. Participants discussed seven themes including: program experience, day to day experiences of microaggressions, types of microaggressions, wellness, the impact of microaggressions on wellness, wellness strategies in coping with microaggressions, and program expectations. The primary types of microaggressions experienced were microinsults (n=8) and microinequities (n=7). Microaggressions were found to have an impact on emotional, academic/career, overall, interpersonal/social, physical, psychological, personal, and spiritual components of wellness. Wellness strategies helped to decrease participants (n=4) vulnerability to racial microaggressions. This study provides information which informs counseling programs of the unique experiences and needs of Latina and African American female graduate students, with implications for increasing retention rates and improving the overall quality and wellness of these students.