Telling the truth? Exploring notions of self and responsibility with young people involved in treatment for harmful sexual behaviour

Ellis, Matthew (2018) Telling the truth? Exploring notions of self and responsibility with young people involved in treatment for harmful sexual behaviour. Doctoral thesis (DSW), University of Sussex.

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This thesis combines autoethnography (Adams et al., 2015) with a psychosocial (Frosh, 2010; Hollway and Jefferson, 2013) approach to explore notions of self and responsibility in the self-narratives of young people involved in treatment for harmful sexual behaviour (HSB). It reflects an area of professional interest for me as a social worker involved in the assessment and treatment of young people classified as having sexual behaviour problems, and appears to be an under represented area of the research literature. Working with the psychoanalytic concept of transference I also explore how as a researcher I make sense of the ways in which professionals and young people encounter each other in treatment.
Drawing on poststructuralist conceptions of self and an ethical life (Butler, 2005), I suggest that treatment operates as a form of ethical violence, if ethical violence is to require a coherent self-narrative from young people as part-evidence of them taking personal responsibility (Butler, 2005). Rather than focusing on the ‘truth’ of a ‘seamless story’, I am interested in what Butler (2005) calls ‘enigmatic articulations’ that cannot easily be narrated. From this perspective I use autoethnographic methods and psychoanalytic tools to consider how unconscious dynamics might be enacted between practitioners and young people in treatment to produce meaning, and to make sense of discomfiting, and sometimes conflictual experiences.
The empirical study employed a qualitative longitudinal design (Thomson, 2012) gathering narrative data over the course of eight months from six young men aged between sixteen and eighteen, at various stages of treatment for HSB. Interviews were conducted using the ‘Free Association Narrative Interview’ method (Hollway and Jefferson, 2013), and complemented with creative/arts-based techniques, such as music and collage (Thomson, 2008). Personal reflections and insights, aroused through my own transference were also produced during data collection and analysis. Data analysis was inductive, utilising narrative (Doucet and Mauthner, 2008), and psychosocial approaches (Frosh and Baraitser, 2008; Hollway and Jefferson, 2013), informed by psychoanalytic (Laplanche and Pontalis, 1973; Zizek, 2006; Frosh, 2012) and social (Butler, 2004, 2005; Frosh, 2010) theoretical perspectives.
Findings are presented in the form of three case studies, influenced by the psychoanalytic case study tradition (Forrester, 1996) and autoethnography (Ellis and Rawicki, 2013), which serve as exemplars, illustrating themes that emerged from the wider data set. Each presents my understanding and interpretation of the young person’s story, in relation to their experience of treatment as provided over the course of the interviews. The case studies also highlight some of the complex struggles involved for young people in trying to narratively locate themselves between various, and often competing discursive demands, and provide insights from my experience as a practice informed researcher and interlocutor engaged in collaborative meaning making. The narratives are analysed to reveal discordant voices characterised by contradictions and inconsistencies; fears, anxieties and uncertain futures, as well as un-narrated feelings of dangerousness, which are echoed and amplified through my own highly personalised reflections.
The thesis makes a number of original contributions, and develops new substantive knowledge regarding an understanding of young people attending treatment for harmful sexual behaviour, particularly in relation to how they view themselves and their treatment journeys. By writing autoethnographically, and using this to present participant stories as multivoiced narratives I am bringing both a researcher, and practitioner perspective into view regarding young people’s understanding of responsibility, truth and disclosure. The application of Lacanian-influenced, psychosocial, creative, narrative and autoethnographic methods is original in its approach to researching ‘beneath the surface’ with young people involved in treatment for HSB. The thesis also generates valuable insights in terms of the limits of narrative approaches to treatment, and the support needs of practitioners.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Social Work and Social Care
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0012 Sexual life > HQ0071 Sexual deviations
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2018 10:35
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2018 10:35

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