An exploration of constructions of connectedness and the role of intersubjectivity in personality disorder

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Research demonstrates that connectedness, namely the feeling of bonding and belonging experienced by human beings within and with society, shapes our identity and is a protective factor in relation to mental health and physical difficulties. Absence of connectedness is associated with, for example, suicidal and self-harming behaviours, depression, and social withdrawal. Little research on connectedness as an interpersonal process, including how it is experienced and how it influences the interpretation that patients have of themselves and the world around them has taken place in the context of a diagnosis of personality disorder. The present study conducted an analysis of connectedness as experienced and explored insights concerning the nature, development and experience of connectedness towards themselves and others described by individuals with such a diagnosis.
Seven adults diagnosed with personality disorder, all peer supporters from the mental health charity Together For Mental Wellbeing, participated in semi-structured interviews adopting personal construct theory (PCT) methodology. The findings were transcribed and examined using thematic analysis with the goal of identifying superordinate and subordinate themes in participant narratives.
Two superordinate themes were identified. One involved safety and trust, as both conditions and consequences in the experience of connectedness. The second theme focused on intersubjectivity and ‘making sense with’, key processes used by participants to make sense of the reality around them.
Construing related to the theme of connectedness in personality disorder is considered, with regard to its importance for both future research and clinical practice.
Concerning the former, the study shows how patients with personality disorder experienced connectedness, and highlights themes that should be further explored through quantitative methodology, such as the use of Repertory Grid techniques or the Inclusion of Others in Self scale.
With regards to the latter, the research shows how using Personal Construct Psychotherapy techniques can help explore the narratives and construing of individuals diagnosed with personality disorder, leading to greater trust and safer rapports between patients and clinicians.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAdrian Paul Charles Needs (Supervisor) & Dominic Pearson (Supervisor)

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