Date of Conferral





Counselor Education and Supervision


Corinne Bridges


The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the shift toward distance education by forcing institutions to adapt to the limitations of social distancing mandates. This resulted in a general sense of disconnection and isolation, compounding the other adverse effects of the pandemic. Since faculty-student and student-student connections are consistently identified as best practices in distance counselor education, the aim of this descriptive phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of counselor educators during the COVID-19 pandemic relating to faculty-student and student-student connections. A phenomenological framework was used to suspend presuppositions of the phenomenon and to describe the lived experiences of participants. In-depth semistructured interviews with seven counselor educators provided data for this study. Giorgi’s descriptive design guided data analysis and provided a systematic method for conducting rigorous phenomenological psychological research. Six major themes emerged from the data: (a) the pedagogical shift, (b) focus on students’ needs, (c) loss of face-to-face opportunities for connection, (d) fostering connective engagement, (e) balancing leniency and boundaries, and (f) faculty need for supportive leadership. Further, four subthemes emerged under the theme of fostering connective engagement: (a) intentionality, (b) creativity, (c) accessibility, and (d) empathy. The results of this inquiry confirm connection as a best practice in distance counselor education and provide empirical evidence that can inform sound pedagogy during a global pandemic. The social change implications of this study revolve around raising awareness of student and faculty needs as precursors to effective counselor education.