Counseling and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Date of Award

Fall 2023



Degree Level


LCSH subject

Counseling -- Education; Seminarians

Proquest Document ID



30691317 (Proquest ID)


St. Mary's University (San Antonio, Tex.)

Size or duration

233 pages

Document Type


First Advisor

Tubbs, Carolyn Y.


This dissertation presented a transcendental phenomenological study conducted among eight seminarians in one of the theological schools in Southern Texas, who attended the personof-the- therapist (POTT) training program during the fall semester of 2019. This study aimed to examine seminarian participants' experiences in POTT training, their influence on their selfawareness, and their impact on their emotional maturity and the ability to make responsible life choices. The study was guided by an existential-humanistic philosophical orientation as an overarching theoretical orientation with the subjective epistemological worldview and socialconstructionism paradigm. Findings indicated POTT training positively impacted seminarian participants' human formation, which was foundational to their emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial development. The participants described the essence of their experience in POTT training as self-awareness, by becoming aware of themselves, their family background, and their vulnerabilities. The experience of safety and trust within the group enabled participants to take the risk of sharing personal stories of their vulnerabilities and brokenness despite the initial discomfort. The experience of greater self-awareness facilitated the process of healing and reconciliation, providing the inner sense of freedom to navigate the direction of their life, especially their self-acceptance, growth, and maturity capable of making responsible choices in life, including the discernment of vocation. The findings of this study suggest that interventions like POTT training effectively provide a safe space for self-exploration as part of human formation to facilitate self-awareness, acceptance, and growth in seminarians' discerning vocation. Based on participants’ recommendations, the formation program in seminaries should provide a safe and supportive climate that facilitates self-exploration and awareness of developmental deficiencies and promotes growth as part of human formation. Local ordinaries and boards of administration of seminaries should ensure that seminaries have qualified and skilled formators or identify suitable mental health practitioners to facilitate the group in selfexploration and reflection process in creating self-awareness among seminarians. Keywords: safe space, self-awareness, inter-generational genogram, self-acceptance, healing, emotional growth, responsible choices, and discernment.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.