The paradox of self surrender and self empowerment: an interpretative phenomenological investigation of the individual’s understanding of the higher power in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Medina, Marc (2013) The paradox of self surrender and self empowerment: an interpretative phenomenological investigation of the individual’s understanding of the higher power in Alcoholics Anonymous. Other thesis, Middlesex University / New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling.

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Abstract

The aim of this study is to examine how long term recovery from addiction within the
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) paradigm impacts upon the everyday lives of the participants; the
choices they make, the difficulties they encounter and their felt sense of personal freedom.
The sceptical view of AA is that the price of this recovery is the loss of an independent or
strong self that becomes subsumed in the group-think and overtaken by the need to surrender
to a Higher Power. For this reason it has traditionally been assumed that psychotherapy and
AA are fundamentally antithetic, one promoting the self and the other calling for self surrender.
This qualitative research has sought to understand more about the sober self by interviewing
six long term sober AA members (average length of sobriety 16 years) using semi structured
interviews and analysing the resulting data using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
(IPA). The results indicated that rather than losing themselves or their sense of agency, these
participants have overcome their alcoholic selves and emerged as more responsible,
empowered, connected and free selves. This paradox of self surrender and self empowerment
is explored further as is the resonance between the spiritu-philosophical basis of AA and the
insights that underpin existential psychotherapy. This study can contribute towards a deeper
understanding of the nature of long term sobriety and further research is suggested that
focuses on attitudes towards AA amongst psychotherapists and psychologists, and the
operationalization of the process of handing over and recognising personal limitations. The
clinical significance of this research lies in its attempt to increase understanding, specifically
amongst existential psychotherapists, regarding the potential congruence of attending AA and
engaging in existential psychotherapy and also allowing those in the addiction community to
understand more about the parallels that exist between AA and this philosophically grounded
branch of psychotherapy.

Item Type: Thesis (Other)
Additional Information: Degree type = Doctor of Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Keywords (uncontrolled): Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Alcoholics Anonymous, Addiction, Sobriety, Self surrender, Higher Power, Existential psychotherapy
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC)
Item ID: 10236
Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2013 11:28
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2019 07:38
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/10236

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