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We are all women : the experience of therapy with women who starve themselves Cairns, Lynn

Abstract

A therapist and her or his client are involved in a relationship that has implications for both individuals. The implications for the therapist have received little attention in counselling literature. Female therapists who work with women who starve themselves as a result of an eating disorder are confronted with a variety of issues. These may be experienced both personally and professionally. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of female therapists who work with such clients. The question that has guided this study is: What is the experience for women therapists of working with female clients who are starving themselves? Phenomenological interviews, which are unstructured and focus on the experience of the co-researchers, were conducted with five female therapists. Co-researchers were selected based on their experience with clients who starve themselves, along with their willingness and ability to discuss their experience. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed for common themes and experiences using Colaizzi's (1978) seven step process for phenomenological data analysis as a rough guide. Five common themes emerged, which describe both the personal and professional experiences of the women interviewed. These themes describe the women's sense of heightened awareness, sense of vulnerability, increased sense of responsibility, sense of altered relationships, and need to develop coping strategies.

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