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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comparing approaches to evaluate group mind/body programs for individuals living with chronic illness : considerations of theory and methods Pope, Alison Sandra Anne

Abstract

Objective: To explore what can be known about the relationship between mind/body in the processes of health and wellness using the positivistic tradition of Western medical research, and to compare this to what can be known by utilizing research methods with a non-positivistic, qualitative epistemology. An evaluation of a group mind/body program provided a case example by comparing findings gained using standardized health outcome measures with in-depth qualitative interviews to assess participant experiences. Methods: A clinical trial was undertaken as a feasibility study. Forty clients of the Tzu Chi Institute were assigned to the intervention or control group on a first-come-firstserved basis. All participants were receiving individualized care with practitioners at the Tzu Chi Institute clinic. Participants in the intervention group also experienced an 8 week, 50 hour meditation-based Mind/Body Program. Questionnaires were administered at 3 and 6 months post-program and included measures of health status, quality of wellbeing and social support. Thirteen in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with participants of the Mind/Body Program. Findings: The social functioning scale of the SF-36 Health Status Survey was the only significant change found using a repeated measures analysis of variance. On the other hand, the qualitative analysis revealed these individuals engaged in a process of personal growth that led to improved well-being. The theme of these findings entitled ' A Process of Transforming Well-Being' captured the way participants moved through several stages of personal growth. Conclusion and Implications: Efforts at understanding the benefits of mind/body interventions have not paid sufficient attention to the important subjective experiences of participants related to working through their 'inner process' and self-discovery. Traditional assumptions regarding the nature of 'positive' change, the assumption that positive change is necessarily linear, and the reliance on changes in short-term physical and psychological symptoms as indicators of the value of a successful intervention of this nature are questioned. Further, it was demonstrated that physical symptoms may not have the direct relationship to well-being that the questionnaires assume. The need to begin to understand the 'process' of a healing experience as opposed to emphasizing the assessment of health 'outcome' was noted.

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