Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies


College of Education

First Advisor

Joshua M. Gold


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a profound diagnosis that affects 1% of the world’s population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]; 2015a). Counselors can play a dynamic role in treating ASD and promoting greater life satisfaction; however, the counseling field has not identified how counselors develop their competencies working with children with ASD and their families. Therefore, the phenomenological investigation examined the experiences of 15 counselors in the field and their self-perceived competencies of treating ASD. A model of ASD counseling competencies development emerged from the data. Participants described the developmental components of Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC; Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, Butler, & McCullough, 2016) such as building awareness, knowledge, skills, and action competencies. By gaining exposure to the diagnosis, the cyclical, developmental process of MSJCC built their clinical expertise. Additionally, analysis illustrated participants increased their competence by describing a strong counseling identity, professional orientation, and personal characteristics to meet the needs of the child and their family. To better serve this ever-increasing population, implications for counselor education, supervisors, and professional counselors is presented.