Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Dr. Barbara Herlihy

Second Advisor

Dr. Ann O'Hanlon

Third Advisor

Dr. Zarus Watson


Qualitative phenomenological methodology was used to explore the lived experiences of African American women diagnosed with breast cancer. Phenomenology focuses on the meaning of the lived experiences of individuals experiencing a concept, structure, or phenomenon (Creswell, 2007). The purpose of phenomenological research is to identify phenomena as perceived by the individual. Utilizing an existential perspective, the focus of this study was to uncover meaning which defined the essence of the participants’ experiences. Seven African American women diagnosed with breast cancer participated in this study. The participants’ ages ranged from 33-63 years. A semi-structured interview process with open-ended questions was utilized to gain an understanding of the participants’ personal experiences related to the phenomenon. Data was analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, 2004) to ascertain emergent themes and to interpret the meaning of the participants’ breast cancer experience.

Seven common themes emerged from the cases. Those themes included: spirituality; support systems; self-care; resiliency; existential meaning; education; and perception of counseling. These seven themes will help to provide insight into how counselors can help to facilitate emotional wellness within this particular population. Implications and recommendations for counselor educators, counselors, and counselors-in-training with this population are also addressed.


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