School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Fred Milacci


compassion fatigue, burnout, secondary traumatic stress, rural school counselors, Title I, work stress, compassion stress




The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe Title I rural K–12 school counselors’ lived experiences with compassion fatigue in Oklahoma. The research questions were: How do Title I school counselors in rural Oklahoma describe their experiences with compassion fatigue? How do participants describe the factors that contribute to their experience of compassion fatigue? How do participants describe the effects of compassion fatigue on their personal and vocational lives? The theory guiding this study was the compassion fatigue theory by Charles Figley (1995). Using a qualitative transcendental phenomenological design, Title I school counselors working in Oklahoma who experienced compassion fatigue were selected based on their scores on the burnout or secondary trauma scales of the Professional Quality of Life 5 scale (Stamm, 2010). Data collection included a demographic survey, face-to- face semi-structured interviews, cognitive representations, an online focus group for member checks, and participant follow-up emails. Three themes emerged: a counselor being overwhelmed leads to compassion fatigue, compassion fatigue causes dissonance, and compassion fatigue leads to disheartenment. Implications include recommendations for graduate educators, rural administrators, and rural school counselors. The study concluded with a discussion of the study's limitations and implications for future studies.

Available for download on Wednesday, September 18, 2024

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