Off-campus Pacific University users: To download campus access theses and dissertations, please log into our proxy server with your PUNet ID and password.

Non-Pacific University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis or dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Theses or dissertations that have a specific embargo period indicated below will not be available to anyone until the date indicated.

Date of Award


Degree Type

Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Committee Chair

Genevieve Arnaut

Second Advisor

Kevin Krycka

Third Advisor

Michel Hersen


Literature on therapeutic dilemmas is scarce. Related literature on therapeutic impasse fails to capture therapist experiences of being in a situation in which any available interventions appear to be counter-therapeutic. This study was a phenomenological investigation of therapists' experiences of being in dilemmas. Results suggest that dilemmas can be characterized by therapists' perceived inability to act juxtaposed with the experienced need to take action. Additionally, three main themes were obtained from this study. The first theme, therapists' experiences of being in a dilemma, includes both being stuck and generating alternative options. The second theme, therapists' attitudes, was divided into attitudes that reflect compassion and commitment and attitudes that reflect frustration towards the client and/or the situation. The third theme, therapists' personal responses, was divided into the recognition of personal and professional limits and comparisons with past situations. Available writings on therapeutic impasse suggest that dilemmas may fit definitions of impasse, but not all definitions of impasse fit dilemmas. The main difference is that therapists. experiencing an impasse reported a sense of self-alienation and disconnection, whereas therapists in dilemmas did not consistently report this experience.