About this episode
For young people with schizophrenia, their first experience of psychosis is often highly traumatic. Because of the close, nurturing relationships mothers typically have with their children, they too can experience trauma while witnessing their children’s disturbing psychotic episodes. As a result, mothers of adult children with schizophrenia often experience negative impacts on their physical and psychological health. Debra Klages takes a unique perspective by shedding light on how the traumatic experiences of health professionals with dual roles as mothers can lead to personal and professional growth and resilience.
Core to current theories of post-traumatic growth is the idea that people who have experienced adverse events can develop increased resilience as they find meaning in their experiences. However, some researchers have questioned the validity of findings that negative experiences may lead to positive outcomes.
To explore these conflicting perspectives, Dr Klages and her colleagues at the University of New England studied the lived experiences of 13 health professionals who are also mothers of adult children with schizophrenia. The researchers created a safe space for the participants to discuss their stories through the exchange of information and the development of shared understanding, while seeking to minimise power imbalances.
Thematic analysis allowed Dr Klages and her team to delve systematically into the participants’ experiences, views and perceptions. It was clear that the first episode of psychosis had been highly distressing for the mothers, and this distress continued following the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Critically, Dr Klages found that this distress became a catalyst for post-traumatic growth, and she identified three themes associated with this process of change.
She named the first theme ‘our hands are tied’, to reflect how the mothers described the experience of disempowerment that accompanied the first episode of psychosis.
The second theme, ‘accepting and adapting’, is a precursor to post-traumatic growth in which the individuals’ environments allowed them to move forward, both as mothers and health professionals.
The third theme, called ‘I could make a difference’, reflects how the mothers used their professional and lived experience to help their colleagues and contemporaries to care for people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Dr Klages points to the transformative process of growth that can arise from blending professional and scientific knowledge with experiential mothering knowledge.
This growth can increase the compassion and effectiveness of health professionals working with people and their carers who live with schizophrenia. Dr Klages suggests that further research would encourage mental health professionals to integrate the unique research findings into practice.
Original Article Reference
Summary of the paper, ‘Post-traumatic growth: Health professionals as mothers of adult children with schizophrenia,’ in Health Care for Women International, doi.org/10.1080/07399332.2020.1781126
For further information, you can connect with Debra Klages at firstname.lastname@example.org
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