2018 Abstracts

2018 Giving Voice Conference Abstracts, listed alphabetically by Author


Whose Voice? Whose Experience? A Researcher’s Reconciling with Subjectivity

Alex Adame, Seattle University

Qualitative researchers prioritize subjective experience as a valuable means of understanding the world.  Yet the notion that we can study another person’s subjectivity as something “out there” has long since been challenged by feminist, relational, and intersubjective theorists.  Working from the premise that knowledge is socially co-constructed, I have long grappled with the question of interpretive authority in my own research.  My work has centered upon the experiences of people who have experienced psychiatric oppression and have subsequently formed grassroots communities of support and mental health activism.  Yet until recently, I have not written publically about my own lived experience, how it differs and overlaps with those of former research participants, and how it shapes my understanding of their lives. In recent years there have been more critiques written by people who identify as “mad scholars” about the colonization of their experiences by qualitative researchers in the academy.  In this presentation, I will discuss the arc of my own research in this domain moving from more traditional narrative analyses to a collaborative book project with several psychiatric survivors.  Further, I argue for the role of the academy in engaging in more community-based, participatory, and empowerment-based frameworks particularly when working with groups that have been historically marginalized in society.     


The Lived Experience of Shame in Athletes: An Existential-Phenomenological Exploration

Derrick Klaassen, Kristin Konieczny, Mihaela Launeanu, Janelle Kwee, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC. Canada

Shame represents a self-conscious emotion that leads to considerable isolation and emotional pain. Giving the intensely disconnecting and private nature of shame, researching such experiences poses distinct difficulties for participants and researchers alike. Nonetheless, this research holds the promise to promote healing by giving voice to silenced experiences and reconnecting with participants’ personhood.

In this context, this presentation has a twofold purpose: a) to present and discuss the findings of a qualitative research study that explored the lived experience of shame in athletes, and b) to elaborate an existential-phenomenological method of inquiry grounded in Personal Existential Analysis (PEA), as the methodological framework for investigating these experiences. This research framework honors participants’ personal experiences, and encourages encountering the research participants in the midst of their shame experiences as a way of uncovering and undoing shame.

The findings of this research study have a direct impact on engaging in psychotherapy with persons struggling with shame by: a) describing the essential characteristics of the lived shame experience, b) suggesting ways to access and explore these experiences, and c) raising awareness about the likely obstacles in connecting therapeutically with people experiencing shame. In addition, the methodological framework implemented in this research project offers valuable suggestions for exploring lived experiences from an existential-phenomenological perspective.


The Embodied Experience of Vulnerability Between First-time Parent Couples

Claire LeBeau, Seattle University and Elaine Webster, Private Practice and Parenting Educator, Seattle, WA.

Becoming a parent represents one of the most significant and dramatic life changes that an individual and a couple can experience.  In the space of nine months, couples must prepare themselves, their world, and each other to care for a child. This time, therefore, represents a period of great upheaval and change, and even when the change is welcomed and expected with joy, new parents can feel quite vulnerable in ways that are impossible to either anticipate or articulate.  Just as the newborn child is vulnerable, so too are the new parents. For the past two years, we have been researching the topic of vulnerability for first-time parent couples. To explore this dramatic life transition, this qualitative research utilizes a longitudinal existential-phenomenological investigation of the early, embodied experiences of vulnerability between new parent couples.  The transition of new parenthood is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that affects and is experienced by new parents in different ways that impact their relationship.  This research is inherently therapeutic and interventional in that it explores the embodied experiences of vulnerability between five couples, through three interviews from the last trimester of pregnancy to nine months post-partum, in adjusting to their new roles and identities as parents, with particular emphasis on how they express their feelings on an embodied level to each other.  The research methodology as well as preliminary findings for each couple will be presented exploring the intersection between the embodied experiences and expressions of vulnerability early in the developmental process of becoming parents with the therapeutic possibilities of strengthening parenting attachments, intimacy in couple partnerships, and the family as a whole. 


The Remembered Experience of Adoption: Factors Supporting Healthy Adjustment 

Crystal Gonsalves, Student Counseling Center, University of Washington-Tacoma, WA

This qualitative research study explores ideas, customs, and practices related to adoption from the perspective of adult adoptees.  While many studies have attempted to explain the negative impact of adoption, minimal literature has explored the adoption practices that successfully promote healthy adjustment and a sense of resilience and well-being in adopted children.  Existing research on adoption is largely quantitative, which can fail to capture the personal, lived experience of a positive adoption experience that leads to healthy adjustment. Specifically, there is little knowledge about which factors of the adoption experience adoptees perceive as contributing to healthy adjustment and a sense of well-being. By interviewing adults who were adopted as children, it was hoped that their personal stories could augment clinical conceptualizations of adoption and shed light on positive meaning-making experiences in the context of adoption. The current phenomenological study located seven themes among the participants related to their adoption experience and self-identification as resilient and well adjusted. Identified themes related to the following: the adoption narrative, disclosure of adoptive status, attachment, stigma, contact with biological relatives, communication with fellow adoptees, and integration into the adoptive family. The results of this study may be helpful to those involved in the adoption process, including mental health professionals and paraprofessionals working closely with adoptees and their families. Additionally, this information may be of value to those involved in family treatment courts, child welfare services, and other agencies who wish to promote positive experiences for children and families involved in the adoption process. The electronic version of this dissertation study is accessible at the Ohiolink ETD center http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd. 


Grieving together: Understanding and facilitating relational grieving in community

 Marnie Venema & Derrick Klaassen, Trinity Western University

Grieving the death of a loved one is an inherently relational experience. While grieving can be facilitated through relational encounter and cultural context, it is more often inhibited through these same dynamics. Bereavement literature has begun to acknowledge the interpersonal dimensions of grieving, however, the vast majority of research study and clinical intervention remains fixated on intrapsychic processes. The focus of my research is examining how communities grieve together with bereaved parents after the death of a child. The qualitative action project method was used to capture the joint grieving actions of bereaved parents and their community members with a focus on explaining the meanings, processes, and context wherein action is rooted. The findings point to an understanding of relational grieving in community and how grieving can be facilitated in a relational context; this understanding is not only useful within psychotherapy, but can equip communities and more largely, change the cultural climate in which grieving remains taboo.