Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Gloria Kieley

Committee Member

Katrina Penn


This applied dissertation was designed to explore therapists’ perspectives on aiding individuals to maintain social connection while struggling with health concerns. Social relationships support physical and psychological well-being, yet individuals struggling with physical or mental health issues often have difficulty maintaining their relationships. Therapists, as health professionals, often discuss physical as well as emotional health concerns with their patients, including components of physiological and psychological heath care. Emerging neuroscience is aiding in understanding how research in this field supports early intervention for health outcomes around healthy social and family relationships during chronic disease or illness onset.The researcher conducted a phenomenological study by means of an asynchronous virtual focus group with ten experienced therapists. The participants in this study all hold a valid therapy license and have been in practice for at least five years. Each participant therapeutically serves individuals who have some medical diagnosis and are dealing with the challenge of feeling isolated or estranged from family or friends.

An analysis of the data indicated that overall, the therapeutic role is critical to establishing a safe space of therapeutic wellness for the client and suggests that practicing healthy boundaries during a pandemic are challenging and necessary to limit therapeutic vicarious grieving. Findings recommend partnering with clients to compassionately collaborate on the therapeutic process, enabling clients to effectively manage their internal world, their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Creative support such as art and mindfulness as therapeutic interventions are helpful with those reluctant to embrace talk therapy. Barriers identified by the participants included problems with emotional regulation, family systems crisis, practical barriers, and experiencing a global pandemic.