City Research Online

The use of storytelling to make sense of painful life events: implications for clinical practice in counselling psychology

Samsami, Paniz (2015). The use of storytelling to make sense of painful life events: implications for clinical practice in counselling psychology. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The aim of this study is to explore how individuals with an acquired facial disfigurement (FD), following a traumatic accident or illness, psychologically reconstruct themselves using a narrative analysis. Whilst previous studies on visible difference have employed both quantitative and qualitative based methodologies, there is only a handful of research in the psychological literature that specifically explores the subjective experience of people with facial cancer and facial trauma. In particular, there is a lack of attention on how this population reconstruct their internal world and make sense of their FD. Narrative analysis was used as a way of gaining an insight into the ways that these individuals reconstruct themselves and make meaning of their disfigurement. Thus, a sample size of seven individuals who had acquired a disfigurement either as a result of an accident or facial/oral cancer took part. Participants were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Findings revealed the following narrative genres: 'the outsider', 'the helpless prisoner', and 'the wounded survivor'. In the genre of 'the outsider', participants presented themselves as vulnerable and submissive protagonists who were humiliated, persecuted, and ostracised from the rest of society. The genre of 'the outsider' demonstrates how the consequences of living with a FD and of being a constant victim of social disgrace can leave a profound impact upon one's sense of self and identity. In the genre of 'the helpless prisoner' protagonists shared their stories of living a restricted life and their stories were characterised by stagnation, helplessness, and a sense of isolation. Finally, in the genre of 'the wounded survivor', protagonists portrayed their lives as a series of challenges that provided them with an opportunity for growth, acceptance, and compassion. The findings of this study are put in the context of counselling psychology and clinical implications are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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