Development of Professional Identity for Counseling Professionals: A Mindfulness-Based Perspective

  • Shengli DongEmail author
  • Linda Miles
  • Neil Abell
  • Jadelyn Martinez


Professional identity development (PID), which involves transformational learning, is crucial for counselors and trainees. However most current training approaches focus more on specific tasks related to PID without focusing on the transformational learning aspect. Mindfulness is an important component for transformational learning; however, limited effort has been focused on its likely impact on PID. This conceptual article describes the need for integrating mindfulness into PID, and explains applications of mindfulness practices in assisting counselors to enhance development of a professional identity in the course of completing transformational tasks through a transformative learning process. Recommendations for future practice and research are included.


Mindfulness Professional identity development Counselors and trainees Transformational tasks Transformative learning 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declared that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Auxier, C., Hughes, F. R., & Kline, W. B. (2003). Identity development in counselors-in-training. Counselor Education and Supervision, 43, 25–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baer, D. (2017, April 12). The father of mindfulness on what mindfulness has become: An interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of mindfulness-based stress reduction [Blog post] Retrieved from
  3. Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers' professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 107–128. Scholar
  4. Bieling, P. J., Antony, M. M., & Beck, A. T. (2003). Ending the depression cycle: A step-by-step guide for preventing relapse. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.Google Scholar
  5. Birnbaum, L. (2008). The use of mindfulness training to create an “accompanying place” for social work students. Social Work Education, 27, 837–852. Scholar
  6. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230–241. Scholar
  7. Bramming, P. (2007). An argument for strong learning in higher education. Quality in Higher Education, 13, 45–56. Scholar
  8. Brott, P. E. (2006). Counselor education accountability: Training the effective professional school counselor. Professional School Counseling, 10, 179–188. Scholar
  9. Caldwell, K. L. (2012). Mindfulness matters: Practices for counselors and counselor education. Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS, 1, 1–9.Google Scholar
  10. Carson, S. H., & Langer, E. J. (2006). Mindfulness and self-acceptance. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 24, 29–43. Scholar
  11. Chrisman, J. A., Christopher, J. C., & Lichtenstein, S. J. (2009). Qigong as a mindfulness practice for counseling students: A qualitative study. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49, 236–257. Scholar
  12. Christopher, J. C., Christopher, S. E., Dunnagan, T., & Schure, M. (2006). Teaching self-care through mindfulness practices: The application of yoga, meditation, and qigong to counselor training. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 46, 494–509. Scholar
  13. Christopher, J. C., & Maris, J. A. (2010). Integrating mindfulness as self-care into counseling and psychotherapy training. Counseling and Psychotherapy Research, 10, 114–125. Scholar
  14. Clouder, L. (2005). Caring as a ‘threshold concept’: Transforming students in higher education into health(care) professionals. Teaching in Higher Education, 10, 505–517. Scholar
  15. Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (2010). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  16. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (2016). 2016 CACREP standards. Retrieved from Scholar
  17. Crane, R., & Elias, D. (2006). Being with what is. Therapy Today, 17(10), 31–33.Google Scholar
  18. Cummins, D. (2009). The role of practicum and intern supervisees in PID (Doctoral dissertation). University of New Orleans. Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3361216).Google Scholar
  19. Cushman, P., & Gilford, P. (2000). Will managed care change our way of being? American Psychologist, 55, 985–996. Scholar
  20. Dimidjian, S., & Linehan, M. M. (2009). Mindfulness practice. In W. T. O’Donohue & J. E. Fisher (Eds.), General principles and empirically supported techniques of cognitive behavior therapy, (pp. 425–433). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  21. Elias, D. (1997). It's time to change our minds: An introduction to transformative learning. ReVision, 20(1), 2–7.Google Scholar
  22. Gibson, D. M., Dollarhide, C. T., & Moss, J. M. (2010). Professional identity development: A grounded theory of transformational tasks of new counselors. Counselor Education and Supervision, 50, 21–37. Scholar
  23. Granello, D. H., & Young, M. E. (2012). Counseling today: Foundations of professional identity. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  24. Hall, K. (2014, July). Self-validation: How to accept your internal experience. Psychology Today. Retrieved from
  25. Hamilton, N. W. (2008). Assessing professionalism: Measuring progress in the formation of an ethical professional identity. University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 5, 470–511.Google Scholar
  26. Howard, E. E., Inman, A. G., & Altman, A. N. (2006). Critical incidents among novice counselor trainees. Counselor Education and Supervision, 46, 88–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Intrator, S. M., & Kunzman, R. (2006). Starting with the soul. Educational Leadership, 63(6), 39–42.Google Scholar
  28. Jacobowitz, J. L., & Rogers, S. (2014). Mindful ethics: A pedagogical and practical approach to teaching legal ethics, developing professional identity, and encouraging civility. St. Mary's Law Journal, 4, 198–241.Google Scholar
  29. Jenaro, C., Flores, N., & Arias, B. (2007). Burnout and coping in human service practitioners. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 80–87. Scholar
  30. Jensen, C. G., Vangkilde, S., Frokjaer, V., & Hasselbalch, S. G. (2012). Mindfulness training affects attention—Or is it attentional effort? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 106–123. Scholar
  31. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  32. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144–156.Google Scholar
  33. Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: problem and process in human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Korthagen, F., & Vasalos, A. (2005). Levels in reflection: Core reflection as a means to enhance professional growth. Teachers and Teacher Education: Theory and Practice, 11, 47–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kristeller, J. L. (2007). Mindfulness meditation. Principles and Practice of Stress Management, 3, 393–427.Google Scholar
  36. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., & Fischal, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport: For Rapid Communication of Neuroscience Research, 16, 1893–1897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Levitt, D. H., & Jacques, J. D. (2005). Promoting tolerance for ambiguity in counselor training programs. Journal of Humanistic Counseling Education and Development, 44, 46–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Loganbill, C., Hardy, E., & Delworth, U. (1982). Supervision: A conceptual model. The Counseling Psychologist, 10(1), 3–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Luke, M., & Goodrich, K. M. (2010). Chi sigma iota chapter leadership and professional identity development in early career counselors. Counselor Education and Supervision, 50, 56–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lum, W. (2002). The use of self of the therapist. Contemporary Family Therapy, 24, 181–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martin, N. (2014). Think like a (mindful) lawyer: Incorporating mindfulness, professional identity, and emotional intelligence into the first year law curriculum. University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, 36, 413–451.Google Scholar
  42. Mayes, R. D., Dollarhide, C. T., Marshall, B., & Rae, A. (2016). Affective and developmental transitions: Qualitative themes in multicultural counseling journals. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 33, 2–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Morrow, G., Burford, B., Rothwell, C., Carter, M., McLachlan, J., & Illing, J. (2011). Professionalism in healthcare professionals. Report to the health and care professions council. London: HCPC.Google Scholar
  44. Moss, J. M., Gibson, D. M., & Dollarhide, C. T. (2014). Professional identity development: A grounded theory of transformational tasks of counselors. Journal of Counseling and Development, 92, 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oser, C. B., Biebel, E. P., Pullen, E., & Harp, K. L. (2013). Causes, consequences, and prevention of burnout among substance abuse treatment counselors:A rural versus urban comparison. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 45, 17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pistole, M. C., & Roberts, A. (2002). Mental health counseling: Toward resolving identity confusions. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 24, 1–19.Google Scholar
  47. Pollak, S. M., Pedulla, T., & Siegel, R. D. (2016). Sitting together: Essential skills for mindfulness-based psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  48. Robins, C. J. (2002). Zen principles and mindfulness practice in dialectical beahvior therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9, 50–57. Scholar
  49. Rothaupt, J. W., & Morgan, M. M. (2007). Counselors' and counselor educators' practice of mindfulness: A qualitative inquiry. Counseling and Values, 52, 40–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rust, J. P., Raskin, J. D., & Hill, M. S. (2013). Problems of professional competence among counselor trainees: Programmatic issues and guidelines. Counselor Education and Supervision, 52, 30–52. Scholar
  51. Salzberg, S., & Goldstein, J. (2001). Insight meditation workbook. Boulder: Sounds True.Google Scholar
  52. Sapolsky, R. M. (1998). Why zebras don’t get ulcers: A guide to stress, stress-related disorders and coping. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  53. Schure, M. B., Christopher, J., & Christopher, S. (2008). Mind–body medicine and the art of self-care: Teaching mindfulness to counseling students through yoga, meditation, and qigong. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86, 47–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Senge, P. M., Scharmer, C. O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B. S. (2004). Presence: An exploration of profound change in people, organizations, and society. Cambridge: Society for Organizational Learning.Google Scholar
  55. Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 105–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 373–386. Scholar
  57. Shuler, M. K., & Keller-Dupree, E. A. (2015). The impact of transformational learning experiences on personal and professional counselor-in-training identity development. The Professional Counselor, 5, 152–162. Scholar
  58. Skovholt, T. M., Grier, T. L., & Hanson, M. R. (2001). Career counseling for longevity: Self-care and burnout prevention strategies for counselor resilience. Journal of Career Development, 27, 167–176. Scholar
  59. Stanley, S., Reitzel, L. R., Wingate, L. R., Cukrowicz, K. C., Lima, E. N., & Joiner Jr., T. E. (2006). Mindfulness: A primrose path for therapists using manualized treatments? Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quaterly, 20, 327–335. Scholar
  60. Stoltenberg, C. D. (1981). Approaching supervision from a developmental perspective: The counselor complexity model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28, 59–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Studer, J. R. (2007). Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages applied to supervision. Guidance & Counseling, 21, 168–173.Google Scholar
  62. The Mindful Pause Exercise. (2015). In University of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry. Retrieved from
  63. Thompson, H., Frick, M. H., & Trice-Black, S. (2011). Counselor-in-training perceptions of supervision practices related to self-care and burnout. The Professional Counselor, 1, 152–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tjan, A. K. (2015). Five ways to become more self-aware. Retrieved from Scholar
  65. Vilardaga, R., Luoma, J. B., Hayes, S. C., Pistorello, J., Levin, M. E., Hildebrandt, … Bond, F. (2011). Burnout among the addiction counseling workforce: The differential roles of mindfulness and values-based processes and work-site factors. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 40, 323–335. Scholar
  66. De Weerdt, S., Bouwen, R., Corthouts, F., & Martens, H. (2006). Identity transformation as an intercontextual process. Industry and Higher Education, 20, 317–326.
  67. Wilder, T. (n.d.). Mindfulness & bias: Literature review. Retrieved from
  68. Yeager, K. A., & Bauer-Wu, S. (2014). Cultural humility: Essential foundation for clinical researchers. Applied Nursing Research, 26, 251–256. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology and Learning SystemsFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Miles and AssociatesTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.College of Social WorkFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations