Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Embracing the wounded healer—therapist transformations following a diagnosis of breast cancer
by Grefenson, Alicia Maris, Psy.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2012, 245; 3539701
Abstract (Summary)

A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event, whatever the prognosis. Survivors have reported that nearly every aspect of their life is impacted by the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Breast cancer incidence has increased significantly since the middle of the 20th century, as has the number of women entering the psychotherapy profession. This suggests that an increasing number of therapists will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Also, it is likely that a therapist with breast cancer will treat clients who have themselves been diagnosed or who are impacted by a loved one's diagnosis. Events in therapists' personal lives clearly have an impact on how they think about and work with clients, though little research explores the impact of life threatening illness, including breast cancer, on the therapist's work. Past research suggests that therapists who continue to work with clients after a diagnosis of breast cancer noticed changes in and expansion of theoretical orientation; a shift to a more transpersonal or existential perspective on the problems of life; increased patience and curiosity about clients; and increased sensitivity to client core beliefs. The present study used semi-structured interviews with seven female therapists to explore the impact of a diagnosis of breast cancer on how clinicians work. The qualitative design of Consensual Qualitative Research (C. Hill, B. Thompson & E. Williams, 1997) was used to extract themes from the data. Participants reported both positive and negative changes in how they worked with clients. Participants also noted changes in their countertransferential reactions to client material and clinical interactions that were experienced as reminders of the therapist's ongoing vulnerability.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McGovern, Katherine
Commitee: Levine, Ellen
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Breast neoplasms, Cancer survivors, Countertransference, Effects of illness on counseling, Therapist attitudes, Women psychotherapists
Publication Number: 3539701
ISBN: 978-1-267-64142-7
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