Date of Award

Fall 12-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Barbara Herlihy, PhD

Second Advisor

Roxane Dufrene, PhD

Third Advisor

Zarus Watson, PhD


Each year in the United States, approximately 81 million individuals receive surgeries in which .1% to .2% (20,000 to 40,000/20 million) experience Anesthesia Awareness (AA). More than 50% of the AA cases result in mental distress or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because the percentage of AA cases among surgeries makes it appear to be a rare occurrence, and because it has received rather limited research attention, I decided to undertake an interpretative phenomenological analysis to discover AA clients’ perceptions of their counseling experience, and encourage development of therapeutic interventions to meet their needs.

The broad research question for my study was how do clients perceive their experience of counseling for trauma related to AA? The context was provided by a review of the literature which focused on trauma and PTSD, AA, clients’ perceptions of counseling, counseling for trauma, and counseling for PTSD. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data which then was coded to identify emerging themes which were then clustered. The clustered themes were used to answer the broad and specific research questions.

Based on the findings of my study, the theme of relational factors of counselors most often emerged as helpful to counseling (e.g., Rogerian- congruence, unconditional positive regard, accurate empathic understanding), whereas, the therapy process, external barriers, and PTSD symptoms most often emerged as hindering to counseling.

Implications for counselors and counselor educators include increased understanding and insight regarding AA survivors and the role of relationship when counseling this population which may lead to more effective interventions and expanded professional roles to work with this population.


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