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Nothings ever enough: the counselling psychology of compulsive buying, perfectionism and hedonic adapations

Sparrow, H. (2009). Nothings ever enough: the counselling psychology of compulsive buying, perfectionism and hedonic adapations. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


“Nothing’s ever enough”: this portfolio seeks to explore different aspects of the sentiment articulated by one of my research participants. The introduction provides an overview of the other three sections of the portfolio and draws out the themes which link them. My research into compulsive buying comprises the second section. This seeks to explore the subjective experience of being a compulsive buyer, using the qualitative research methodology interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The research takes a counselling psychology perspective with a view to informing practice with this client group. The intention was to look at shopping behaviours and at some of the underlying values and beliefs held by my participants in order to better understand how they make sense of the world. Catalano and Sonenberg (1993) describe compulsive buying as the “smiled-upon addiction” (p. 17), a problem which has traditionally been both laughed at, and condoned by, a society whose economy depends upon excess spending. The third section presents a client study which provides an insight into the pernicious problems caused by perfectionism. Like compulsive buying, it may not seem serious and can be initially encouraged, however, like shopping, there comes a point at which the problems it causes become severe. The therapeutic work involved creating a relationship within which the possibilities of a different way of being could be explored; where the therapist did not pretend to be perfect and the client found the courage to, in her words, find a “happy medium” between “perfection and rubbish”. The final section consists of a literature review which explores the opportunities offered within positive psychology to help clients who wish to become happier, rather than simply to overcome their problems. It starts by explaining the concept of hedonic adaptation which suggests that individuals have a set point for happiness to which they inevitably return. The literature review continues by exploring the research which contradicts this, suggesting that happiness can be increased. The focus then moves to evaluating interventions designed to help individuals become happier and reviewing the role which counselling psychologists might play in this process.

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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