Experiences of LGBTQ adolescents and their parents with secondary school counselors: A qualitative study




Vela, Carol Annelise


Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




School counselors are professionally and ethically obligated to serve students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) however, there is limited research and thus limited resources to guide them in approaching the issues. The purpose of the study was to identify the meaning behind the lived experiences of LGBTQ students and parents of LGBTQ students while working with their school counselors. The lived experiences of school counselors working with LGBTQ students and their parents were also studied. A phenomenological inquiry was conducted to explore the lived experiences of participants. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with four LGBTQ students, three parents of LGBTQ students, and three school counselors. Additionally, five school counselors participated in a focus group. The researcher used in vivo coding methods to highlight significant units of meaning in the transcripts from interviews and the focus groups. The researcher scrutinized these statements and developed clusters of meaning into themes: acceptance, experience of coming out, being open with others, being comfortable, education and training, support and challenges, and needing to talk. The study findings showed LGBTQ students needed both familial and school support to thrive in a typical scholastic environment. Parents sought school counselors for mainly academic reasons and did not expect assistance with personal and social issues. Some school counselors recognized LGBTQ issues were developing as early as middle school. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students can utilize the school counselor as a resource to help with various issues. Parents of LGBTQ children can utilize the school counselor when looking for support in accepting their child. The school counselors, following the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) model of competencies, can be a resource for LGBTQ students by: introducing group support like Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), facilitating group counseling, helping students come out to family and friends, monitoring student academic success, as well as counsel students on developing healthy relationships. Further research could address the need for LGBTQ resources as well as training for staff in middle schools and possibly in elementary schools.


A dissertation submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in COUNSELOR EDUCATION from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.


adolescents, lgbtq, parents, qualitative, school counselors, schools



This material is made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used should be fully credited with its source. All rights are reserved and retained regardless of current or future development or laws that may apply to fair use standards. Permission for publication of this material, in part or in full, must be secured with the author and/or publisher.