Family carers and mental health : the role of self-compassion

Empson, Kate and Sellwood, Bill (2017) Family carers and mental health : the role of self-compassion. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The self-conscious emotions of guilt and shame are often experienced by family members who care for a relative with a mental health difficulty. This may drive certain behaviours, characterised as emotional overinvolvement (EOI). EOI is consistently associated with poorer outcomes among people experiencing mental health difficulties and their relatives. One factor associated with guilt and shame in the wider literature is self-compassion. The focus of this thesis is on examining self-compassion in family carers of people with mental health difficulties, so as to determine whether this is an appropriate focus for interventions. It is hoped that the work undertaken in this thesis will inform the support offered by clinicians, both to carers and their relatives. The first study is comprised of a qualitative meta-synthesis, which explores the experiences of family members partaking in family interventions for eating disorders. Research has considered family interventions from the client’s perspective, but it appears that no qualitative review has considered the impact of such interventions on relatives. Interventions provided a space for validation, safe exploration of painful emotions, and an opportunity to regain parts of themselves that had perhaps been lost in the midst of providing care. The second study explores the relationship between guilt and shame, and EOI in family carers. It also examines whether self-compassion moderates the relationship between guilt/shame and EOI. Although all variables were highly correlated with each other, there was no significant moderating effect of self-compassion on the relationship between the predictor variables of guilt and shame, and EOI. Further space for reflecting on the findings and implications can be found in section three of the thesis, which comprises a critical appraisal of the research paper.

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Thesis (PhD)
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04 Dec 2017 10:18
Last Modified:
23 Jan 2024 00:57