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Title: The perfectionist constellation : how perfectionists describe, understand, experience and imagine relationships
Author: Marsh, Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 6711
Awarding Body: University of the West of England, Bristol
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2018
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This Counselling Psychology study has explored how twelve self-identified perfectionists describe, understand, experience and imagine relationships. Nine female and three male interviewees aged between 33 and 67 were recruited through a purpose-built website, social media, press advertising and word-of-mouth and were relationally interviewed. The interview transcripts were inductively analysed from a critical realist perspective using Braun and Clarke’s guide for thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke 2013). This sought semantic and latent meaning in order to give voice to perfectionist relationship experience and the possible impacts of this for therapeutic relationships. Three main themes became evident from the analysis. These included: Challenging early parental experience, Feeling unpleasant sensations and emotions and Habits impacting on relationships. The study assesses cognitive, psychoanalytic, trauma and attachment theories for how well they fit the experiences of the interviewees and recommends using these theories in combination. It identifies areas of perfectionist experience and interpersonal experience that theory does not account for. Amongst the therapeutic implications of the study are that perfectionism is a highly pathologised experience which is conceptualised over-negatively and discursively disenfranchises the majority of those experiencing it. The study identifies that discrepancy can be experienced interpersonally, recommends this as an area for further research and that a mix of methods would facilitate this. It makes recommendations for the profession, for individual therapists and about what a pluralist approach to assessment and therapy may comprise of. Overall, this study shifts the focus from defining perfectionism to giving voice to the experience of it. It concludes that interventions seeking to resolve perfectionism as a problem or which encourage perfectionists to relinquish important parts of the self may be misguided because they do not take into account its synergistic nature or how profoundly integral perfectionism is to self. It recommends that therapy focus on resilience, management, understanding individual perfectionism and discrepancy, and relationship building.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Couns.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Perfectionism ; Relationships ; Interpersonal Discrepancy ; Therapeutic Relationship ; Therapeutic Alliance