Women and their journals: navigating depression through consciousness-raising, resistance and action
AuthorWestern, Deborah Jane
AffiliationSchool of Nursing and Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsWestern, D. J. (2009). Women and their journals: navigating depression through consciousness-raising, resistance and action. PhD thesis, School of Nursing and Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne.
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© 2009 Dr. Deborah Jane Western
Depression in women is a major mental health issue and social work practitioners can, at some stage in their careers, expect to work with women experiencing depression. Journal therapy, the use of writing for therapeutic purposes, is one example of support and intervention offered to women. The use of journal therapy and specifically the use of journalling by women in Women’s Journalling Groups were investigated in this research. Limited research had been undertaken in the area of journal therapy with women experiencing depression. The research was undertaken in four phases and used a modified form of grounded theory to develop the research design and to identify and articulate ideas about women’s use of journalling during depression. Phase one established the baseline knowledge for the research through a Co-operative Inquiry underpinned by feminist research principles. Findings from the Inquiry identified: Two key methods of journalling and women’s responses to depression: • The Considered Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Contemplation framework • The Proactive Resistance, Rehearsal, Agency and Action framework; Four key narratives that women had created about their journalling and their understanding of depression in women: • Identification and expression of emotions; • Identity, sense of self and self-value; • Structural and social roles, relationships and expectations; and • Transformative choices, opportunities and accomplishments; Phase two involved the conceptualising, formalising and transfer of this knowledge into the development of a Women’s Journalling Group program. Through the facilitation of two Women’s Journalling Groups in phase three, the journalling activities were found by women to be relevant and meaningful for them in assisting them to understand their depression and move toward recovery. Phase four included the final stage of knowledge utilisation and transfer. A most significant and new finding from this research was that journalling undertaken by the women was a form of action in response to their depression. Far from being a passive, ruminative, purposeless pastime, journalling was an evolving and sustaining action that enabled the women to gain insights and understandings into themselves and their depression. Journalling activities enabled women to identify and express the many feelings and thoughts that attached to their depression. In reaching clearer understandings of themselves and their depression and in gaining confidence in making choices about their future, women were engaged in processes of consciousness-raising and resistance. Resistance to social and structural expectations, roles and stereotypes was important for the women who could then redefine and redevelop their authentic sense of self and identity. Resistance could occur on an individual level in the journal and on a collective level within Women’s Journalling Groups. The major outcomes of this research have resulted in a model of journalling that has been used to develop a theoretically grounded Women’s Journalling Group program. Whist some further developmental work is required with the program, it nevertheless provides a tested therapeutic intervention that can be offered to women experiencing depression.
Keywordswomen; mental health; depression; journal therapy
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