What Do We Mean By Support? A Discourse Analytic Study of Practitioners’ Talk about Facilitating Support Groups for Eating and Body Image Issues
Ki, Patricia Hoi Ling
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The purpose of this research is concerned with the ways service providers define, construct, and understand their practices and approaches in facilitating support groups in community-based settings for adults living with eating and body image issues. It aims to identify the discourses and power relations that both give shape to and are continually shaped by facilitators’ understanding and practices. Critical feminist analyses have found that psychomedical treatment models for ‘eating disorders’ often paradoxically reinforce the gendered discourses and discursive practices that constitute eating and body image issues in the first place. Examining the ways that group facilitators understand and define their practices through a critical feminist perspective and discourse analytic framework opens up new possibilities in practices of support to disrupt the discourses and power relations that contribute to eating and body image problems. The findings of this study suggest that psycho-medical, humanist, and gender discourses are dominant in participants’ constructions of their practices of support. Particularly, individualized understandings about eating and body image issues are reproduced. At the same time, individualizing and psychologising ideas are also challenged and resisted, especially in the ways participants question social and cultural norms and contemporary treatment methods when describing their understandings of support. The participants’ practice contexts outside of medical institutions may position them as having less expertise in relations to those afforded higher statuses within discourses of medicine and psychiatry, yet their discursive positions also seem to allow space for alternative ways of working.