This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Perceived Moral Distress in Counseling Supervision: An Examination of Role Conflict and the Supervisory Working Alliance




Willingham, Shanna

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


The purpose of the current research study was to investigate the relationship between the supervisory working alliance and the supervisee’s experience of role conflict. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Individual characteristics of the supervisor and supervisee were examined to determine if these had an influence on role conflict among supervisees. Additionally, this study sought to examine the presence of moral distress in the supervisory relationship and how it might also correspond with role conflict and the supervisory working alliance. Participants (n = 60) for this study were from a national sample of supervisees and supervisees-in-training recruited through a counseling listerv and through targeted emails. A major finding in the study was that when role conflict is present the supervisory working alliance suffers. In addition, results indicated that the supervisor’s years of counseling experience influence the supervisee’s experience of role conflict. Supervisees who were employed experience more role conflict than students, while students in internship experience more role conflict than practicum students. Supervisees who were employed and being supervised by their employer experienced more role conflict than those who were being supervised for licensure. Additionally, the qualitative results from this study indicated that when moral distress is present, role conflict increases and satisfaction with the supervisory alliance decreases. It was found through qualitative analysis that moral distress is tied to ethical decision-making. Limitations, implications for the counseling profession, and needs for further research were also discussed.