Exit Wounds: A Heuristic Inquiry into the Moral Distress of Counselor Educators




Elliott, Jordan E.

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Moral distress manifests as an emotionally and psychologically painful response when an individual's perceptions of right and wrong are challenged by external influences. The negative side effects of such challenges can develop holistically and compromise an individual's personal and professional well-being. Originally coined to describe a nursing phenomenon, moral distress is now explored in nursing, social work, psychiatry, and various health care specialties. Despite its expansion and application to other mental health disciplines and helping professions, a lack of research into moral distress in counseling and counselor education remains. I used heuristic inquiry with a theoretical framework of person-centered theory and social cognitive theory to explore the moral distress of 10 current and former counselor educators across the United States. Through data analysis, four themes emerged: (a) factors leading to moral distress, (b) protective factors and actions taken to address moral distress, (c) holistic impact of moral distress, and (d) end result. These findings suggest that counselor educators have historically experienced and are currently experiencing moral distress, which negatively impacts their personal, professional, and holistic wellness. In the ensuing chapters, I discuss the need for the study and provide a literature review, study design, and the study's results as well as limitations, implications for counselor education, and suggestions for future research.


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counselor educators, ethics, mental health, moral distress, morals