Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Psychology - Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences
Foster, Heather, Changing lives: a personal construct approach to menopause, PhD thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong, 2003. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/221
This thesis argues the need for an exploration of the meanings, and pathways to reconstruction, of women anticipating or experiencing menopause, and that a personal construct approach can provide a creative context for meeting this need. Very few psychologically based interventions for menopausal women have been reported in the menopausal literature. I describe my development of a personal construct model of menopause, consisting of two major meanings of menopause, and five patterns of construing, including a pattern for intervention. I also describe two studies. Study 1 was an exploration of the meanings that women used in construing their expectation and experience of menopause. I identify the themes in the women�s construing. The most frequently occurring were awareness of physical or psychological change, expressions of distressing emotion, and an inability to predict what was happening. Women also spoke of a lack of opportunities for discussion, and their difficulty in decision-making in this context. These themes made clear the need for an intervention. Study 2 consisted of the development and evaluation of a three-session Menopause Workshop, designed to facilitate women�s reconstruing of themselves in relation to menopausal changes. The overall aims of this study were: (1) to reduce the women�s anxiety and feelings of helplessness in relation to menopause, and (2) to increase the women�s feelings of control, hope and positive feelings in relation to menopause. I conducted an outcome study using a repeated measures, contrast group design. I used content analysis scales to assess the level of emotion reflected in women�s construing about menopause at three data collection times: pre-workshop, post-workshop, and after five months. At the first data collection the women were screened using a measure of distress, and women with scores above the norm were assigned to Sample A (Above average), and women with scores within the normal range were assigned to Sample B (Normal). A further Contrast Sample (Sample C) was formed of women who took part only in data collections. For the women in Sample A there was a statistically significant long term decrease in anxiety (p = .01), and a long-term decrease in feelings of helplessness that approached significance (p = .26). Although there was a significant improvement in the positive emotions after the workshop, this was not sustained after five months. In an unexpected result, the results for the women in Sample B also showed a statistically significant long-term decrease in anxiety and feelings of helplessness (p = .01). Scores for the Contrast Sample showed no significant difference over time. Aim 1 was met: the women�s meanings of menopause showed a long-term reduction in feelings of anxiety and helplessness after the very brief personal construct workshop. Aim 2, however, was met in the short term, but not in the longer term. I illustrate these results with case studies, and descriptions of the processes of the workshops. I reflect upon the implications of the findings, comment on the limitations of this research, suggest revision of the personal construct model of menopause, and provide directions for future research. The results of these studies provide further evidence that a personal construct approach can play a convincing role in meeting the growing need for effective provision of time-limited psychological services.