Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





Committee Chair

Amanda J Young

Committee Member

Walter Kirkpatrick

Committee Member

Marian Levy

Committee Member

David Gray Matthews


The purpose of my research is twofold: to better understand the experience of living with an addict as communicated through family members' illness narratives, and to give addiction-affected family members a voice. A gap currently exists in the literature regarding the experience of the addiction-affected family, as well as mental health literacy and its role in addiction. To address this gap, I performed a phenomenological study of family members who have dealt with or who are dealing with an addict who is also perceived to have the dual diagnosis of mental illness. I recruited participants using chain referral sampling. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews, I explored my research questions by interviewing nine people who are family members of an addict. My research questions focused on five areas: health and mental health literacy, social support, illness narratives, systems theory, and Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). I looked for two themes in my data (social support and health literacy) and the IPA process revealed two more (agency and keeping and revealing secrets). I borrowed from Arthur Frank's (1995) narrative typologies (Chaos, Restitution, and Quest narratives) to create a parallel set of narratives specific to the addiction-affected family (Crisis, Resolved, and Resilient narratives). I then used my new typolgies as a lens to better understand the themes that emerged from my participants' narratives and answer my research questions. I plan to use the information gained from this project to add scholarship to the discipline regarding mental health and addiction. My goal is to add a new dimension to the communication tools researchers and practitioners use to understand and equip family members in coping with the difficulties associated with addiction. I also plan to eventually plan to develop a literacy-based intervention to promote attendance as well as improve communication in support groups such as Al Anon.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.