This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Resilience and Recovery in College Students with a Substance Use Disorder: A Phenomenological Analysis




Matsunaga, Julie

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA, 2015) more than one in three college students binge drinks, one in five uses an illicit substance, and one in seven meets the clinical criteria of having a substance abuse disorder. These surveys do not include items to determine if respondents are in recovery; thus, there are no precise estimates of the numbers of college students in recovery from addiction (Perron, Grahovac, Uppal, Granillo, Shutter, & Porter, 2011). However, the prevalence of substance use in this population is a primary indicator of the potential need for support services on campuses. Bell, Kanitkar, Watson, Lostina-Ritchey, and Harris (2009) suggested that support services for students in recovery were critical to their academic success. This phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of resilience by college students in recovery from substance use disorders. The data drawn from individual interviews with purposively selected participants (N=8) were thematically analyzed to understand the relationship between resilience and recovery among this population. Four recurring themes were identified and shown to be the critical sources of resilience, Managing Emotions, Social Support and Community, Humility and Acceptance, and Spirituality. A member check estimated that the resonance with participants experience regarding the four themes was very high between the eight respondents. This high level of agreement suggested that the data were trustworthy and credible. Few studies focus specifically on the experiences of college students in recovery. Therefore, this study contributes to closing the gap in knowledge regarding this demographic group for whom the prevalence of substance use and addiction is disproportionately high.