Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

First Adviser

Woodhouse, Susan S.


The advisory relationship is a critical component of training in counseling psychology doctoral programs (Gelso, 1979; Gelso & Lent, 2000; Schlosser & Gelso, 2001). The doctoral advisor performs various functions and is theorized to serve as a secure base from which the advisee can safely explore (Huber, Sauer, Mrdjenovich, & Gugiu, 2010). Research indicates that faculty mobility has become increasingly common and is often a component of professional advancement, resulting in high turnover rates and subsequent advisor loss (Aggarwal & Medury, 2012). The present study aimed to be the first to examine how advisees experience this loss. Utilizing Consensual Qualitative Research (Hill et al., 2005), the present study consisted of interviews with 10 counseling psychology doctoral advisees who had experienced the loss of their advisor during doctoral training. The seven domains that emerged from the data were: (1) relationship with original advisor prior to departure; (2) experience of advisor loss; (3) responses to advisor loss (self and others); (4) transition to new advisor; (5) relationship with new advisor; (6) current relationship with original advisor; and (7) views of advising relationship. Results indicated that although a majority of advisees described the initial experience of advisor loss negatively, numerous advisees adapted and made positive meaning of the experience. Experiences after the loss were important in advisees’ ability to make meaning and in the loss’s perceived impact on graduate training. Faculty and programmatic responses, research, professional development tasks, relationship with the new advisor, and navigation of the doctoral program were key areas discussed as either positively or negatively connected to the experience of advisor loss. Implications for doctoral programs are discussed, including how programs can appropriately respond when advisor loss occurs (e.g., ensuring faculty members meet with students who have lost an advisor) and how to address this issue in program materials (e.g., a statement in the student handbook about who will follow up with the student after the loss occurs, the timeline in which this communication will take place, who the student can contact with any questions or concerns, and specific information on how a student should go about identifying a new advisor to work with, so as to help students gain a sense of control by knowing what steps would be taken if loss was to occur). Limitations and directions for future research are also discussed.