Title page for ETD etd-01312006-081414

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Matthee, Samantha
Email jamsam@mweb.co.za
URN etd-01312006-081414
Document Title Qualitative research as a therapeutic technique for a member of a family who has lost children to HIV/AIDS
Degree MA (Counselling Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Dr G Viljoen
  • position as researcher
  • therapeutic relationship
  • co-creating meaning
  • language
  • coping mechanisms
  • research/therapy
  • ethics
  • qualitative research
  • social constructionism
Date 2005-03-06
Availability restricted
This dissertation centres on the dual role of the researcher and the therapist, and the responsibilities associated with these roles. This study explores the goals of the researcher and the therapist and has tried to personalise the two roles assuming the functions of both therapist and researcher.

For this research dissertation the social constructionist perspective has been used, with reference to the power of language. When people communicate, they offer definitions of themselves and respond to definitions of other people. Communication creates and recreates our social world (Penman, 1992). This perspective suggests that people do not exist separately from their conversational activity, rather that the meaning and perceptions people have of themselves, others, and reality are communicatively created. Meanings and knowledge are co-constructed through interaction (Shotter, 1993). Relationships and reality are viewed as being created, constituted, and sustained by communication. Research and therapy can both be seen as communication processes that generate meaning and create knowledge.

This dissertation is based on qualitative research as it appeared to be compatible with social construction as they are linked by a postmodern language based epistemology (Shotter, 1993). It is therefore fitting to use it in this study as it is based on language and what has been said between the participant and researcher. It is important to listen to what people have to say, and to explore their ideas and concerns, which the subjects themselves come up with. After a while, a pattern may emerge, which may prompt observations to be made in a different way.

For the purpose of this dissertation and in order to personalise it, refer in particular to ‘research/therapy’. This is because many of the ethical dilemmas raised in the ensuing discussion were encountered by virtue of being both researcher and therapist. A valuable outcome of this journey would be reporting on the experiences of meaning and ethical issues that were grappled with. During the course of this research the ethical concerns centred around four major issues. These are an assessment of benevolence versus malevolence, confidentiality, duality of roles, and informed consent.

In numerous ways, qualitative research methods resemble what many therapists do in everyday practice. As therapists, we focus our attention on individuals and families, “unpacking” what is brought to us in an attempt to nurture social change. As qualitative researchers we are concerned with phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them (Black, 1994). The research, which is conducted and published, is also utilised to promote social change. In order for researchers to infiltrate their subjects’ lives and experiences they have to build up a trusting relationship. Therapists and researchers hold a very special position in their clients’ and subjects’ lives, as witness to their pain, compassion in coldness, and hope during change. The sensitive natures of the issues into which researchers inquire contribute to many of the same dynamics as a therapeutic relationship. An outcome of this dissertation will hopefully be promoting sensitivity when dealing with research participants.

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