Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Counselor Education

Major Professor

Dr. Zarus Watson;

Second Advisor

Dr. Matthew Lyons

Third Advisor

Dr. Barbara Herlihy

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ann O'Hanlon


A substantial gap exists between those who are considered experts on mental health (e.g., academics, mental health professionals) and those in charge of constructing mental health policies (e.g., legislators, Senators). This gap is in areas of both knowledge and professional relations. Mental health professionals are not adequately trained to engage in policy advocacy and reform efforts and have little to no policy advocacy training (Smith, Reynolds, & Rovnak, 2009). Policymakers lack necessary knowledge related to mental health for effective mental health policy construction (Corrigan, Druss, & Perlick, 2014; Lee, Smith, & Henry, 2013). As a result of this gap, mental health policies are ineffective, and many mental health professionals lack understanding and experience in the area of policy advocacy (Smith et al., 2009; Tanenbaum, 2005). This qualitative study aimed to contribute to filling this gap by exploring the perspectives of policymakers with the purpose of gaining a better understanding of the mental health policy construction and reform process.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perspectives and lived experiences of state-level, practicing policymakers regarding their decision-making processes related to mental health policy construction in efforts to reveal a clearer understanding of how to participate in effective policy reform.A phenomenological qualitative research design and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach was used to explore the lived experiences and perspectives of a total of eight state-level practicing policymakers surrounding the mental health policy construction process. After securing IRB approval, all eight participants participated in face-to-face individual, semi-structured interviews. The interviews were audio recorded and ranged from 45 to 90 minutes. Data was then analyzed using IPA data analysis methods. The final data analysis product included three super ordinate themes and related themes and subthemes.


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