Utilizing Expressive and Narrative Enhancement Therapies with Adolescent Populations: A Personal and Theoretical Exploration of Restorying Self-Narratives After Internalizing Stigmas
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Many individuals internalize stigmas associated with mental illness diagnoses. This phenomenon, also called self-stigma, may encourage the development of negative self-appraisals, which, in turn, may contribute to the loss of one’s identity and hopes for the future. This thesis is an autoethnographic account of my experience internalizing stigmas related to a bipolar II diagnosis. After conducting significant personal research as per the autoethnographic methodology, I composed a series of stories describing my experiences and linked these personal narratives to relevant scholarly literature in order to connect my story to a larger societal and cultural context. I learned that individuals like me, who had a history of bullying victimization and subsequent low self-esteem and self-worth, were more susceptible to internalizing stigmas associated with mental health issues. I also became more aware of the devastating consequences self-stigma can have on an individual, especially during the periods of adolescence and emerging adulthood when one’s identity is forming. However, amongst my dark stories and the accompanying literature of similar nature, I discovered that there could be light for me and for others who had internalized stigmas. I discussed, at length, the positive effects of creative writing and songwriting for individuals who have internalized stigmas. I also creatively introduced a relatively new therapeutic approach, Narrative Enhancement Cognitive Therapy (NECT), in which I placed myself as a character in a fictional, yet scholarly driven, story that described how trained facilitators can encourage their clients to differentiate themselves from self-stigma through cognitive restructuring and narrative enhancement techniques. I have strived to bring my true self – reflective, poetic, and vulnerable – to each section of this thesis. I hope that my words have encouraged my readers to think, to feel, and, most importantly, to share their story too.