School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


James A. Swezey


School Counselor, Student Suicide, School Crisis


Education | Educational Leadership | Educational Psychology


The purpose of this qualitative, hermeneutic, phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of school counselors who have been impacted by the death of a student by suicide in the United States. The central question of the study was: How do school counselors describe their experiences following the death of a student by suicide? The three subquestions were: (a) How do school counselors describe their reactions when a student dies by suicide? (b) How do school counselors perceive their professional involvements in postvention activities following a student suicide? (c) How do school counselors cope after the death of a student by suicide? The theory guiding the study was the crisis in context theory, as this theory explained the grief experiences of an unexpected event within the context of the school environment (Myer & Moore, 2006). Data collection consisted of semi-structured interviews, response to online journal prompts, and focus group discussions of 11 school counselors. Data analysis strategies consisted of content analysis procedures, such as coding the data individually, then synthesizing the data through triangulation, and engaging in self-reflection by journaling throughout the process. The data analysis revealed five common themes of the school counselors’ lived experiences of the phenomenon. The findings indicated that school counselors exhibited high impact from the student suicide regardless of having a relationship with the student, experienced prolonged grief, and demonstrated problem-focused coping. Recommendations are provided for professional training programs, school counselors, administrators, and clinical mental health professionals, as well as, topics for future research. Keywords: school counselors, student suicide, school crisis