Incarcerated Women's Understanding and Experiences of Self-Compassion

  • Author / Creator
    Hiseler, Lara Elizabeth
  • Incarcerated women are a rapidly growing population with complex mental health issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, and trauma. These difficulties contribute to challenges with emotion regulation, in which individuals struggle with adaptively identifying and expressing emotion responses. Difficulties with emotion regulation can result in risk-taking, aggressive and violent behaviours. Self-compassion, which involves relating to oneself in an accepting and kind way during times of distress, has been shown to promote psychological well-being and adaptive emotion regulation skills. To date, there are no studies examining self-compassion from the perspectives of incarcerated women. Research in this area may inform the development of gender-responsive, compassion-focused interventions tailored to unique needs of this population. The present study investigated how self-compassion is understood and experienced by incarcerated women using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with nine women at a medium security provincial prison in Alberta. The findings are demonstrated through six superordinate themes: (a) honouring oneself, (b) adopting a new mindset, (c) gaining self-awareness and insight, (d) accepting and letting go, (e) desiring self-improvement and enacting change, and (f) flow of self-compassion. Clinical implications for integrating compassion-focused approaches with women in prison, methodological considerations, and future avenues for research are discussed.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Counselling Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Jacqueline Pei (educational psychology)
    • Linda McMullen (psychology) University of Saskatchewan
    • William Whelton (educational psychology)
    • George Buck (educational psychology)
    • Geraldine Lasiuk (nursing)