Title page for ETD etd-04272005-032714

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Matheson, Jennifer L.
URN etd-04272005-032714
Title Using Metaphors to Explore the Experiences of Powerlessness Among Women in Twelve-Step Substance Abuse Recovery
Degree PhD
Department Human Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
McCollum, Eric E. Committee Chair
Meszaros, Peggy S. Committee Member
Piercy, Fred P. Committee Member
Rosen, Karen H. Committee Member
  • powerlessness
  • metaphor
  • substance abuse
  • women
  • Twelve-Step
Date of Defense 2005-04-08
Availability unrestricted
Twelve-Step programs of substance abuse recovery are the most popular and most used mutual-help model in the U.S. One of the pivotal aspects of Twelve-Step is the often controversial idea of powerlessness. While a few recent dissertations have been conducted to look at issues related to women in Twelve-Step, most of what has been published in the literature on powerlessness in Twelve-Step is hypothetical, anecdotal, and theoretical. There is debate about the usefulness of the concept of powerless, especially for women in recovery, though no research was found specifically exploring this issue. The current study examines the experiences of powerlessness among women who are using Twelve-Step substance abuse recovery. Because experiences of powerlessness are abstract and may be difficult to articulate, a data collection method called ZMET (Zaltman, 2004) was utilized. This method helped women discuss their thoughts and feelings about powerlessness through the use of images of representative metaphors and analogies. Participants were 13 women who were in various stages of recovery using Twelve-Step. In-depth interviews were used to understand women’s experiences of powerlessness in their recovery while two surveys were used to determine women’s levels of affiliation with Twelve Step programs and their level of agreement with the First Step of Twelve Step. Overall, women felt positively about powerlessness in their recovery and felt it provided a sense of relief. Eleven of the 13 women felt powerlessness was an important aspect of their recovery while two felt it was either not relevant or not something they fully embraced. In exploring the metaphors women had for their experiences of powerlessness, a number of themes emerged. Many of the metaphors indicated processes while some were static. Themes also included metaphors of current events, nature, and babies. Other themes were: Higher Power; a general sense of powerlessness over many things in life and; choosing not to share certain experiences in Twelve-Step meetings. Implications for women in recovery, clinicians, and future research are included as well as strengths and limitations of the study.
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