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Every body tells a story: a heuristic, grounded theory exploration of the impact of working with clients experiencing eating disorders on the counsellor’s embodied subjectivity

Cox, Sharon (2017) Every body tells a story: a heuristic, grounded theory exploration of the impact of working with clients experiencing eating disorders on the counsellor’s embodied subjectivity. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Contemporary western consumerist society exposes individuals to a world of aestheticism with emphasis placed on fashioning the physical body into an unrealistic culturally prescribed ideal. Conflating personality and lifestyle attributes with body shape, individuals attempt to create a sense of self through their physical presentation. As a likely consequence, increasing numbers of people are experiencing disordered eating symptoms and psychological therapists are reporting greater numbers of clients presenting with eating disorders. Recognising that therapists are situated within their own body and have their own relationships with food and eating, the thesis explores how the empathic, relational nature of therapy with clients experiencing eating disorders affects those therapists. A constructivist grounded theory approach to data generation and analysis was initially employed. This was then expanded to incorporate heuristic research analysis practices as the inseparability of the researcher’s academic, therapeutic and personal selves from the study became evident. Semi structured interviews were undertaken with eighteen psychological therapists. Five were person-centred counsellors working in general practice, who formed a preliminary study. The main body of the study comprised thirteen therapists specialising in therapy with clients experiencing eating disorders. In relation to their client work, therapists experienced a range of feelings and also described changes to their own narratives regarding food, eating and their embodied experience. Conceptualising the body as a representation of self, both therapists’ and clients’ bodies were recognised as a visible form of self-disclosure, and thus symbolic communication tool, within the therapy room. The therapeutic orientation of the therapists interviewed was shown to influence both their conceptualisations of eating disorders and their interpretations of their own experiences. Acknowledging that therapists work in different ways, the thesis suggests training topics to enhance understanding of the multifactorial nature of eating disorders which therapists can integrate into their practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Eating disorders, embodied subjectivity, counsellor, psychotherapist, social constructionism, grounded theory, heuristic research
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > University of York St. John
Depositing User: Sharon Cox
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2017 11:49
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2017 11:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18911

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