The View from Somewhere: A Personal and Professional Journey in Counselling Psychology

Nelson, C. (2010). The View from Somewhere: A Personal and Professional Journey in Counselling Psychology. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)

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Abstract

This study sets out to explore change and continuity in the identities of younger women, following a diagnosis of breast cancer. Experience of breast cancer is associated with both general and clinical distress, and evidence suggests that younger women may be particularly at risk (Jim & Anderson, 1997; Soothill, Morris, Harman, Francis & Mcmurray, 2001). Such distress has recently been connected to the way identities are renegotiated after cancer, with acknowledgment of the individual’s lived experience and the social context in which identities are crafted. However, previous research has
focussed on the process of identity change and on consideration of particular identities, with little research among younger women with breast cancer. Adopting a critical realist epistemology, this research aims to explore the range of identities younger women perceive themselves to experience after breast cancer. This study will describe the content of these identities, attending to perceived changes following the cancer diagnosis, together with positive or problematic aspects of these identities and the salience of particular identities. Eight women (< 50 years; cancer staging 0-II) participated in semi-structured interviews, which were examined using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Three major, interconnected themes emerged. “Challenges to embodiment: The body does its own thing” described new embodied identities related to the alien nature of cancer, being reduced to a body, and a different appearance. “Negotiated roles: What am I looking for now?” described changes experienced in social role identities such as partner, mother, friend and work colleague. “Emotional-existential dilemmas: Re-learning what life’s all about” records how participants positioned their identities differently in terms of their mortality, autonomy and life goals. These findings are discussed, with particular consideration of the way younger women’s experience of changed identities can be illuminated by theories of biographical disruption (Bury, 1982; 1991) and discourses of bodily self-control (Lupton, 2003).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/8723

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