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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Life review with student counsellors : exploring therapeutically meaningful experiences in a guided autobiography group Gerlitz, Julia Estelle


This narrative inquiry explored the meaning that graduate students in a counselling psychology program ascribed to the experience of life review. Life review is defined as an evaluative process of intentionally revisiting past events and memories in order to integrate these experiences into the present. The particular method of life review employed in this study was guided autobiography, a group-based approach to life review in which participants write autobiographical stories, read the stories aloud in a group setting, and receive comments and feedback from fellow group members. Previous research in the life review literature has predominately focused on investigating the use of life review with older adults nearing the end of life, has relied heavily on quantitative research methods, and has identified the outcomes of life review, rather than explored the process. The current research contributes to the literature by exploring life review from a qualitative perspective with a younger demographic, by focusing on the underlying meaning- making processes of life review, and by exploring therapeutically meaningful experiences fostered in a guided autobiography group. Participants’ narrative accounts of their experiences in a guided autobiography workshop are presented in this document, and contribute to understanding the viability of life review to promote personal change in the lives of adults in young to mid-adulthood. Twelve thematic findings were generated in this research, which confirm and extend prior research. Novel contributions to the literature include identifying key therapeutic processes that occurred in each phase of the guided autobiography process and the frequency with which they occurred. The most frequently occurring therapeutic processes were a sense of connection, new awareness and insight, and making sense or new meaning out of past experiences. Based on these findings, the study concludes that life review is beneficial for a younger population and suggests it can promote experiences that support personal change in the lives of individuals in young to mid-adulthood. Specific recommendations are made for the therapeutic application of life review, most notably the proposal that an individual follow-up interview be added as a final phase to the guided autobiography process to enhance therapeutic gains.

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