Ahimsa: Indian women's experience of a narrative intervention using art and writing



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Texas Tech University


Mental health services in general and marriage and family therapy in particular are underutilized by many ethnic minority and international populations. Models of marriage and family therapy practice have been developed in the west and reflect western values and norms that are inappropriate in cross-cultural contexts.

This dissertation is an exploratory, qualitative study of the narrative therapy approach used with Asian Indian women. Few empirical studies of the narrative approach to therapy exist. This study is unique in its focus on a cross-cultural application and its emphasis on the experience of participants.

Seven Indian women who are international students (six graduate students and one undergraduate) participated in the study. Participants were recruited through snowball sampling, each volunteering based upon her desire to address a personal problem that would benefit from therapeutic attention. Each engaged in an intervention modeled upon the principles and techniques of narrative therapy. Participants worked individually, proceeding through the intervention in their homes at their own pace over a period of four to 12 weeks. Interviews were then conducted with each participant to ascertain her experience of the intervention.

The intervention itself consisted of semi-structured guided journaling exercises that were sent to participants by e-mail. It also consisted of the creation of art work by each participant to represent her identified problem. During the interviews, participants also created simple diagrams illustrating their relationships with their problems before and after the intervention. Data for the study consisted of written journal responses, art work, transcribed interviews, and the diagrams generated during the interviews.

A heuristic design was employed for this study. Findings showed (1) that participants' identified problems all concerned their cultural adjustment in the United States, (2) that participants initially viewed their problems as internal, personal shortcomings; (3) that the narrative intervention allowed participants to view their problems as manageable entities; (4) that participants were able to identify strengths and resources to overcome their problems; and (5) that the combination of working at home, writing, creating art work, and being interviewed was an effective and culturally appropriate intervention for these participants.



Cross-cultural counseling, Women -- India -- Social conditions, Narrative therapy, Marriage counseling