School Counselors’ Perceptions of Preparedness for Counseling and Supporting Students Dealing with Grief and Complicated Grief

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)



Date of Award

Spring 2016


Approximately 5% of all American children experienced the loss of a close relative or friend before the age of 15, and of this population, 10% to 15% experienced complicated grief reactions. Students who experienced complicated grief reactions in the school setting have needs that could benefit from individualized school counselor services, however grieving students’ counseling needs often went unaddressed. Unaddressed issues related to death and non-death related losses often lead to substantial stress and served as catalysts for psychiatric illness (Haslam, 1978). The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions school counselors held regarding their formal training in providing counseling services to students dealing with grief and/or complicated grief. This researcher used a web-based survey to gauge the preparedness of 257 Texas high school and middle school counselors to assist students experiencing grief and complicated grief. Factor analysis was conducted to identify school counselors’ perceptions regarding how to provide counseling services to grieving students. The significance of this study was to add to the knowledge of school counselors’ perceptions of the adequacy of graduate-level, school counselor preparation programs, and to report the prevalence of school-counselor grief services. Nearly all (90.2%) of responding school counselors worked with students on issues of grief and significant loss. Respondents provided grief counseling services to a mean of 14.1 students annually (SD=32.9), or 3.4 students per 100 counseled. School administration policies, in general, were supportive of school counselors’ efforts to provide grief counseling; however, excessive workloads and poor communication of student’s loss events to counselors were barriers to service delivery. Despite respondents’ perceptions that their graduate training left them underprepared to provide grief counseling services, the respondents felt prepared to provide grief and complicated grief services to their students in need. No significant differences existed between perceptions of high school and middle school counselors, or between rural, suburban, and urban counselors.


Chester Robinson

Subject Categories

Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences