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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transformation of human agency Laub, H. Joan


The general purpose of this study was to examine transformations of human agency in natural contexts. Existing theoretical formulations have primarily been confined to laboratory investigations. Moreover, the principles generated by such theories have not been validated beyond the laboratory setting. With this purpose in mind, there were two immediate aims of the study. The first aim was to contribute to counselling theory by assessing five prominent theories of human agency and providing a basis from which to potentially establish more adequate theoretical formulations. The second aim was to contribute to counselling practice by providing concrete information and a more informed basis through which to enhance agency in clients. A multiple case study design integrating intensive interviewing and Q-methodology was utilized for the study. Ten individuals, five women and five men, ranging in age from 28 to 64, were identified through a network of contacts for participation in the study. Based upon convergence of qualitative evidence from interviews and quantitative evidence from Q-sorts, rich, detailed narrative accounts of transformation were constructed for each individual. Each account was validated by the individual for whom each was written and by an independent reviewer. Through a comparative analysis of the ten diverse accounts of transformation, extensive commonality was identified. Twenty-two common themes were extracted from the accounts that portrayed significant features of the transformation. Based on these themes, an abstract story of the common pattern revealed in the transformation was plotted. Individual aspects of each of the theories of agency were validated as well as qualified in some important ways. In addition, the results extended these theories in three main ways. First, the results indicated that transformations of human agency were complex wholes that involved a configuration of features rather than any one or two isolated features. Second, the findings indicated that context played a critical role in transformations of agency. And third, the results emphasized the important role of powerful emotions in the process of transformation. The results of this study also generated a beginning holistic portrait of transformation which has implications for counsellors in terms of understanding and facilitating transformations of agency in clients.

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