Motherhood in the therapy room. An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of mother-therapists who work with mothers who grieve for their child

Godfrey-Djundja, Kathrin (2019) Motherhood in the therapy room. An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of mother-therapists who work with mothers who grieve for their child. Other thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute. [Thesis]

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The aim of this study was to gain insight into the lived experience of mother-therapists’ (therapists who are also active mothers) therapeutic work with mothers whose child had died. Through this exploration an awareness of how motherhood can shape the therapeutic encounter when working with this client group was created. The study furthermore considered how the work shaped participants’ personal and clinical selves.

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis with its inductive, idiographic and interpretative stance was considered appropriate for this study. Six mother-therapists were interviewed twice on their experiences of working with mothers who grieved for their child. Due to high in-sample variation, two participants’ accounts were not included in the data analysis in order to achieve greater homogeneity.

The remaining four participants were mother-therapists of different therapeutic orientations either qualified and registered with BACP/UKCP/BPS or training towards such registration. They were also mothers of live-children up to the age of 16. Analysis of their interviews led to the creation of four superordinate themes: (1) The personal in the professional; (2) Sitting with the grieving mother; (3) The double-edged sword of identification; (4) How this work has shaped me;

The findings indicate that the mother-therapists in this study considered their role as mother to be influential to their overall identity as well as their work as therapists. Being a mother shaped their work directly and practically, i.e., the hours worked; and indirectly, i.e., empathising with parent-issues through an experiential lens shaped by their own experiences as mothers.

Working with grieving mothers was found to be challenging at times, due to identification with clients and similarities between children. Nevertheless, mother-therapists in this study also felt that being a mother helped empathic attunement, aided connection and working at relational depth. Supervision and self-care were deemed important when working with bereaved mothers.

The findings of this research are intended to support other clinicians who work with child-death. It furthermore contributes to the literature on ‘bereavement work’ and ‘the person of the therapist’ as it highlights the reciprocal nature of the therapist and their work.

Item Type: Thesis (Other)
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > Metanoia Institute
Item ID: 26873
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2019 08:26
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 19:04

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