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Integrating the mind and the body: examining the role of counselling psychology for individuals with physical health problems

Taylor, Abigail (2009). Integrating the mind and the body: examining the role of counselling psychology for individuals with physical health problems. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Finding meaning when facing a diagnosis of advanced cancer can be an important part of an individual’s experience as they face the reality of their death. Spirituality has frequently been cited as an important source of meaning, yet there lacks a consensus over what this term actually means. Previous literature has encountered serious methodological problems, such as confounding religion with spirituality, and there is a lack of qualitative studies in this area. The current study explored the experience of spirituality and meaning-making at the end of life in eight participants with advanced cancer. A hermeneutic phenomenological method was employed since this was considered a creative approach to explore such an elusive concept. The transcripts were turned into poems using poetic condensation (Gee, 1991) in order to preserve the emotional content of the narrative. Analysis revealed two modes of being available to participants at this stage of life: the everyday mode of being and the transcendent mode of being. Participants in the everyday mode of being found meaning from relationships with others and their environment. It is argued that the term “spirituality” is not relevant for this mode of being since participants did not connect with this terminology. Instead the term “belonging-in-the-world” is proposed to capture their experience. For individuals in the transcendent mode of being, meaning was created by thinking about the order of the universe or world and seeking comfort from their inner world. It is proposed that the term spirituality is relevant to their experience. The two modes of being were not mutually exclusive and there was context found that influenced movement between the two. These included treatment history, family and relationships and experience of death throughout life. The appropriateness of existential therapy for participants in the advanced stages of cancer is explored and recommendations are made for future research in this area.

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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