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Young women's experiences of attending a lesbian and bisexual community support group

Twamley, Iseult; (2003) Young women's experiences of attending a lesbian and bisexual community support group. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Many young people may experience social isolation in the process of identifying as homosexual, and this has been linked with an increased risk of mental health problems. Support groups can be a valuable resource for people experiencing problems or issues in their life that are potentially associated with social stigma There has been little research exploring and evaluating what lesbian and gay community support groups offer to the young people who come to use them and how this impacts on the individual and their sexual identity development. This qualitative study aimed to expand on existing literature by exploring individuals' experiences of a community support group for lesbian and bisexual young women (16-25 years). Ten group members were interviewed twice over a period of four months. Semi-structured interviews explored access to the group; needs and motivations of the group members; experiences of the group; benefits and challenges of attendance; individuals' attitudes and beliefs about sexual identity, and how' these were influenced by attending the group. Interviews were analysed using a structured technique based on interpretative phenomenological analysis. Participants' accounts describe their struggles and distress at coming to terms with being attracted to women, and reconciling this with negative messages about homosexuality in the culture. Accessing the group was described as an important route to meeting other young lesbian and bisexual women and this proved a powerful mechanism for combating isolation experienced in other contexts. Although the group was experienced as affirming, it was also found to be challenging to the young women in the process of their identity formation, specifically in relation to fluidity of sexual identity. It appeared that censorship practices were occurring within the group in relation to bisexuality and also regarding mental health or self-esteem issues. The results are discussed in terms of existing literature and methodological issues pertinent to the study are addressed. The study concludes with clinical implications and a consideration of the role of clinical psychology in such groups.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy
Title: Young women's experiences of attending a lesbian and bisexual community support group
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Psychology; Sexual identity; Support groups
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099199
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