Date of Award:
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Susan Crowley (Committee Chair)
Becoming a new parent can cause both immense joy and immense stress that leads to increases and decreases in a new parent’s feeling of life satisfaction. In addition, working as a mental health clinician is a frequently challenging career. Given that many clinicians also become parents while working during the course of their careers, it is surprising that there is not more research on the experience of clinicians who become new parents. More research is needed to find out how people balance the stresses of new parenthood and their emotionally challenging jobs. There is some research on “stress-related growth” that suggests that people can experience stressful or traumatic events and emerge on the other side feeling like they have achieved positive personal growth. This study attempted to find out if this occurs when clinicians become parents.
This was a narrative study aimed to add to the research literature on parent clinician’s (clinicians who were also parents) lives by presenting their stories of becoming new parents. Five parent clinicians were interviewed on two separate occasions and those interviews were transcribed; the transcriptions were edited into five individual stories that detail the parent clinician’s unique challenges, how they navigated their challenges, and how they reflected on their experiences and their personal growth.
The five parent clinicians recounted many positive and negative experiences that new parenthood had on both their clinical work and personal lives. In addition, they described how their families and identities helped them to make meaning out of the challenges they faced. The parent clinicians all talked about how either the presence or absence of social support, or their personal and professional relationships, impacted their lives when they became new parents. Social support included institutional support such as their employers or graduate departments and personal support such as their co-parents, families, and friends. This support either helped or hindered the parent clinician’s ability to balance the demands of parenthood and work. Furthermore, the findings supported previous research on stress-related growth that suggest that cognitive processing (thinking about an event after it occurred) and social support predict the perception of positive personal growth.
This was the first known narrative study on the impacts of new parenthood on mental health clinicians and the study adds to the research literature on clinician’s lived experiences. In addition, the findings from the study can help training directors, clinical supervisors, and agency directors to develop new policies that increase new parents’ social support which may help them weather the storms of becoming a new parent while working as a clinician.
Smith, Amie L., "Personal Growth Following the Challenge of Becoming a New Parent While Working as a Mental Health Clinician: A Narrative Study" (2018). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 7200.
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