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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The stigma of mental illness as experienced by mental health professionals as patients: A phenomenological study
by Bennett, Cynthia Ann, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012, 301; 3534531
Abstract (Summary)

Stigma is a prevalent problem impacting the lives of individuals with mental illness. In recent decades researchers have explored the causes of stigma, described its effects, and proposed courses of action to reduce stigma. However, the population of mental health professionals as patients is conspicuously underrepresented in the review of literature.

Many mental health professionals diagnosed with mental illness suffer in quiet anonymity out of fear of stigma and potential damage to their professional status. This phenomenological research explores the lived experience of mental illness stigma from the perspective of 8 licensed psychologists who endorsed stigma experiences as patients themselves. Participants were interviewed in person, ranging from 1 to 2 hours in length. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed for common themes. Analysis revealed 8 thematic clusters of stigma experience, including public stigma/fear of stigma experiences; the impact of stigma/fear of stigma on personal, professional, and therapist-client relationships; the impact of stigma/fear of stigma on access to personal mental health care; feelings elicited by stigma/fear of stigma experiences; self-stigmatizing beliefs; and the evolution of mental illness stigma and personal growth. Significant findings revealed the participants' stigma experiences to be, in part, similar to those of laypersons. Stigma in situations and experiences specific to mental health professionals were also noted, including graduate school, internships, and collegial and client relationships.

This study provides an in-depth, subjective perspective of mental illness stigma as experienced by mental health professionals as patients. However, the qualitative data are not generalizable, nor do they correlate to previous quantitative research. As phenomenological research, no attempt was made to explore the depth psychological nature of the findings. Topics for future research might include qualitative explorations into themes elicited by this study, or quantitative studies for potential statistical correlations based on this study's significant findings. For the field of depth psychology, hermeneutic inquiries of the stigma archetype may offer insights into its enduring nature.

KEYWORDS: mental illness, stigma, self-stigma, mental health professionals, psychologists, wounded healers

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kelliher, Richard
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mental health, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Mental health professionals, Mental illness, Self-stigma, Stigma
Publication Number: 3534531
ISBN: 978-1-267-81703-7
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