16,055 words and I’m done!

First draft done!

My final thoughts as copied from my dissertation

Before I conclude my study, I would like to say that this dissertation does not intend to disregard the phenomenal pain and distress trauma could cause, nor the struggles that practitioners face when working with highly undesirable materials. There would be some who might find life unappealing after a great tragedy or lose faith in humankind and might never regain it again.

This research had touched me deeply especially Arnold, Calhoun, Tedeschi and Cann’s paper on vicarious posttraumatic growth. I believe I have achieved a degree of personal maturity from interacting with the participants in this study. Their determination to make sense and find light amidst such emotionally demanding work is indeed admirable. I walked away from this study having the concepts brought to live for me. No doubt, I would still experience vicarious trauma of my own during and after my training as a psychotherapist but I certainly am more prepared than I have been few months ago. It is certainly true that

An explicit recognition of trauma work’s potential for positive outcomes might well encourage clinicians to adopt the perspective underlying so many of the reports of the clinicians – that the tears that they shed on behalf of their clients represent an extraordinary opportunity for personal growth. (Arnold, Calhoun, Tedeschi and Cann, 2005: 260)

Slow friday…

My day began with an all nighter. Attempted to go to bed at 1am which didn’t work- my brain just keeps churning. It wouldn’t slow down to allow me to sleep. The interviews just keeps playing and playing in my head. So, I decided to wake up and put that brain activity to some good use- back to writing I go, all the way until 6am when finally it decides to give me a break. My writing, so far, so slow.

In quoting my interviewees in my dissertation (which is a fair chunk due to IPA), my supervisor’s advice keeps coming up, ‘You have a duty to your participants. Justify why you are including something they have said.’ To be fair, it makes total sense, I wouldn’t want someone who interviewed me to distort the meanings of my comments. This means, the analytic process takes twice the time. Hopefully, I am able to do justice to my participants.

IPA- Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

CAUTION!! This might be boring for those who are not into technicalities. Jump down to the last paragraph of this post to skip the details.

So, basically, at the moment, I am writing up the analysis part of my dissertation and below are some of my thoughts on it.

Because of my interest in exploring the lived experience of individuals and a method that allows me to make interpretative comments, IPA (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) became my first choice for this research.

Some of the books which made this workable. If you’re not sure what IPA is or would like a basic introduction to IPA, I would highly recommend Darren Landrige’s ‘Phenomenological Psychology’. It also offers you information on other methods in conducting a qualitative phenomenological research such as descriptive ones that focuses on presenting the experience of participants the way it is, or narrative ones which are interested in the way an account or story is presented by the participant, or interpretative ones which focuses on what kind of meanings an experience holds for the participant. It also describes the fundamentals of phenomenology, it’s history and such. Good introduction.

Phenomenological Psychology by Darren Langdridge

And if you have firmly decided that IPA is your thing; Smith, Flowers and Larking’s ‘Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis’ is the book you wanna get. You won’t be able to live without it. Well, at least I couldn’t. The book discusses IPA in detail; the theoretical aspects of it, how to conduct one and issues to look out for. It also provides research examples and a step-by-step guide for new well as experienced researchers.

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

So with the guidance of these books, I am currently listening and re-listening audio recordings of interviews to get a feel of what the participants are really telling me. Note, I’m saying ‘listening’ instead of ‘reading’ which is what most researchers would do, ie. transcript the data then read and re-read them. But that hasn’t been possible due to time constraints of a masters level project. From the individuals’ audio recordings, I am currently attempting to identify themes or topics that pop out for me and why I think they are the essence of the interview. Following that, I would have to search for connections across the recordings to identify reoccurring themes.

In using this method, I felt that the beauty of this method is that it takes into account the subjectivity of the researcher. That the researcher is ‘engaged in a double hermeneutic (process) because the researcher is trying to make sense of the participant trying to make sense of what’s happening to them’ (Smith, Flowers and Larkin, 2009). But to be honest, it’s a painstaking process to analyse the data using this method although this is probably incomparable to the likes of Grounded Analysis which requires a lot of background conceptual knowledge.

It has been extremely interesting to see the range of experience interviewees have. These interviews have touched me in many ways. From the admiration I hold for them for having been able to jump through the hurdles of the field of trauma work to the inspiration they provide me and their sincerity in helping me gain deeper insight into work in this field. I must admit some of their stories have been horrifying and left me lost in the interviews unable to recollect my thoughts. However it has been a great learning process and if given the choice I would have chosen to conduct those interviews again. I have never felt so much for a set of data before, seeing that I come from a psychological background where we mostly conduct empirical studies. I think I may be a converted from a positivist.

Welcome to my 4th of August 2011

HELLO! ok, hang on, gonna go check on my honey roast chicken.


Hello there. I would like to start with begging you not to ask me why I’ve decided to start a blog. Along with alot of other happenings in my life, I am one spontaneous person. And what’s more handy than a partner that is good in IT? A few clicks here and there —POOF!! A blog website is born!

Anyhow, back to the specifics. Well, I may be spontaneous in making my decisions, but it’s usually about something that have been nagging me at the back of my mind. So, here it is: I have a few ‘aims’ in this blog of mine.

I hope to- yes, bore you with details of my student life. Go on about the whole reflexivity process of a counselling student and how dangerous that could be. Throw in a few reviews here and there on books that saved my life. At times, frustrate you with the monotonous technicality of conducting a research in counselling and psychology. Oh, and of course the daily-ies that tests my patience.

Yeap, that’s about it for now. I shall be back soon for an update on my current obsession- my Masters dissertation. Seriously, in what strange world in my mind that I think writing a blog is a good idea, when all I do everyday at this desk is write, write, write. Especially with a deadline, of tomorrow! (well, to be fair, a deadline I set myself, the real first draft deadline is not till next Tuesday).

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