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Identity as experienced and explored in therapy with adopted children: An IPA study

Vivar, Ruth (2021) Identity as experienced and explored in therapy with adopted children: An IPA study. PhD thesis, University of Essex & Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.


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The aim of this study is to explore therapists’ experience and understanding of adopted children’s identity. Identity formation takes place overtime, all children go through the process. For adopted children, it is further complicated by the meaning of the past and their current sense of self and belonging. In this study, eight therapists in a Specialist CAMHS clinic were interviewed. Verbatim transcripts of the interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to examine how the therapists experienced and explored identity for adopted children. Three emergent themes were identified ‘The Evolving Sense of Self’, ‘There are many facets’ and ‘Creating a little platform’ with recurrent super-ordinate themes providing a rich description of the ther- apists lived experience. Key findings suggest that therapists were working with children who were still affected by trauma, many struggled to adjust to their adoptive families. The children had neg- ative views of the self, they felt persecuted by their history, both known and unknown. There was a sense of fragmentation and splitting. The therapists found adoptive families experienced social stigma and discrimination. The study found therapists wel- comed the space to think about the difficulties they encountered in therapy. The novel findings are discussed and informed by psychoanalytic theory highlighting the com- plexity of the adoption experience and the need for identity to be thought about in therapy, clinical supervision and at home through open communication.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: adopted children, identity development, therapists' lived experience, psychoanalytic psychotherapy
Depositing User: Ruth Vivar
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2021 15:00
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2021 15:00

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