Lindsay Yates

Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services

First Advisor

Cindy L. Juntunen


The current exploratory study aimed to understand the experience of parents whose children have severe and persistent mental illness. It was hypothesized that themes developed from parents’ responses to interview questions would indicate the presence of a) grief, b) trauma, c) subjective burden, and d) objective burden. Participants were 13 parents, comprised of conveniently sampled biological parents and legal guardians. Each parent was independently interviewed using a semi-structured protocol. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed by the principal investigator. Transcripts were analyzed using consensual qualitative analysis. An in-depth analysis of each transcript and cross analysis of transcripts yielded seven domains: Impacts; Evolving Behaviors, Feelings, and Attitudes; Relationships; Treatment Experiences; Understanding; Supports; and Barriers. Results indicated the presence of grief, trauma, subjective burden, and objective burden for all participants and therefore supported the hypothesis. This study suggests that parents of adolescents with severe and persistent mental illness may benefit from inclusion in their children’s treatment planning and decision making as well as be offered support by way of individual and family therapy, community or online support groups, and have their reactions validated and normalized by mental health providers. Furthermore, future research should continue to explore the phenomenological experience of parents of children and adolescents with severe mental illness in addition to quantitatively measuring their grief, trauma, and burden symptoms.

Keywords: parents, severe mental illness, adolescents, CQR, grief, trauma, burden