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Empowering Women in the Middle East by Psychosocial Interventions: Can provision of learning spaces in individual and group sessions and teaching of coping strategies improve women’s quality of life?
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: This study set out to construct a conceptual framework that can be used in social work with women in the Middle East and other settings where women have limited access to resources, which, as a result, limits their decision-making capacity. The framework has both an empirical and a theoretical base. The empirical base comprises data from two intervention projects among Iranian women: single mothers and newly married women. The theoretical base is drawn from relevant psychological and social work theories and is harmonized with the empirical data. Psychosocial intervention projects, based on learning spaces for coping strategies, were organized to assess if Iranian women could use a problemsolving model (i.e. focused on cognition and emotion simultaneously) to effectively and independently meet challenges in their own lives and improve their quality of life.

Methods: Descriptive qualitative and quasi-experimental quantitative methods were used for data collection and analysis. Forty-four single mothers and newly married women from social welfare services were allocated to nonrandomized intervention and comparison groups. The intervention groups were invited to participate in a 7-month psychosocial intervention; the comparison groups were provided with treatment as usual by the social welfare services. The WHOQOL-BREF instrument was used to measure quality of life, comparing each intervention groups’ scores before and after the intervention and with respective comparison groups. In addition, content analysis and constant comparative analysis were performed on the qualitative data collected from the participants before, during and after the intervention.

Results: The results of the quasi-experimental study show significant and large effect sizes among the women exposed to the intervention. Small and not statistically significant effect sizes were observed in the women provided with traditional social welfare services. Accordingly, teaching coping strategies can be a means to improve the quality of life of women in societies where gender discrimination is prevalent. The qualitative findings from the Iranian projects illustrate a process of change —socio-cognitive empowerment— with regard to thinking, feeling and acting among women during and after the intervention. The women developed a number of mental capacities essential to coping and life management. All women used the model effectively, and consequently, made more deliberate decisions to improve their life situations.

Conclusion: The practical lessons from the Iranian projects highlight the possibilities of empowering women through fostering mindfulness and deliberate decision making as well as achieving consciousness. This study provides provisional evidence that psychosocial intervention projects, based on learning spaces for coping strategies, can help many clients to achieve their goals and improve their quality of life, and that this psychosocial intervention project can be a useful model for social work practice with women in the Middle East. The conceptual framework can help social workers to bridge the gap between theory and practice: that is, to draw from existing social work theories and, through the psychosocial intervention model, better apply this knowledge in their practical work with women in challenging social environments.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2013. , 103 p.
Series
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1320
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88194ISBN: 9789175198286 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-88194DiVA: diva2:602053
Public defence
2013-02-22, Aulan, Hälsans Huse, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-01-31 Created: 2013-01-31 Last updated: 2017-06-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Empowering Single Mothers in Iran: Applying a Problem-Solving Model in Learning Groups to Develop Participants’ Capacity to Improve Their Lives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Empowering Single Mothers in Iran: Applying a Problem-Solving Model in Learning Groups to Develop Participants’ Capacity to Improve Their Lives
2013 (English)In: British Journal of Social Work, ISSN 0045-3102, E-ISSN 1468-263X, Vol. 43, no 5, 833-852 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Since 2000, a problem-solving model has been taught to the Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child, and teachers and students of social work in two universities in Iran. Since 2006, with the initiation of UNICEF, social workers, psychologists and even some psychiatrists in Iran have been learning this model. In 2008, a group of researchers created an empowerment-oriented psycho-social group and private intervention project to assess whether a group of Iranian single mothers could use this model, which was traditionally used by professionals only, to effectively and independently meet challenges in their own lives. Our results show that all women used the model effectively and, consequently, made more deliberate decisions to improve their life situations. Some of the women succeeded in finding a job and many improved their family relationships. This study suggests that empowerment-oriented social work can help many clients to achieve their goals, and that this psycho-social intervention project can be a useful model for social work in Iran and many other societies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford University Press, 2013
Keyword
Iranian single mothers, psycho-social intervention, empowerment, capacitydevelopment, the Rahyab problem-solving model
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88189 (URN)10.1093/bjsw/bcs009 (DOI)000322671100002 ()
Available from: 2013-01-31 Created: 2013-01-31 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Empowering newly married women in Iran: A new method of social work intervention that uses a client-directed problem-solving model in both group and individual sessions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Empowering newly married women in Iran: A new method of social work intervention that uses a client-directed problem-solving model in both group and individual sessions
2013 (English)In: Qualitative Social Work, ISSN 1473-3250, E-ISSN 1741-3117, Vol. 12, no 6, 765-781 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We set out to assess the processes by which a personal empowerment-oriented intervention based on learning spaces and the Rahyab problem-solving model can help newly married women in Iran to gain more control over their life situations. Learning to use the problem-solving model independently was an important component of this seven months’ educational program. A descriptive field study design based on qualitative methods was employed for data collection and analysis. The analysis of these processes showed how, through group and individual interventions, these women could influence their intimate relationships by altering their thoughts, their management of emotions, and their overt behavior. We invite more research on how empowerment-oriented interventions can be used to support newly married women as a part of family educational programs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2013
Keyword
Education, empowerment, Iran, problem-solving, Rahyab, women
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88191 (URN)10.1177/1473325012458310 (DOI)000330308200005 ()
Available from: 2013-01-31 Created: 2013-01-31 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
3. Towards a Conceptual Framework for the Socio-Cognitive Empowerment of Women in the Middle East Countries: empirical and theoretical foundations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards a Conceptual Framework for the Socio-Cognitive Empowerment of Women in the Middle East Countries: empirical and theoretical foundations
2012 (English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Summary: This study set out to construct a conceptual framework that can be used in social work with women in the Middle East and other settings where women are consistently limited in their access to resources and, as a result, their decision-making capacity. We employed a qualitative secondary analysis of data from two intervention projects among Iranian women (n=25). Each intervention spanned over seven months, included individual and group sessions, and involved learning an empowerment-oriented problem-solving model. A constant comparative analysis was used to build the conceptual framework.

Findings: The practical lessons from the Iranian projects highlight a process of change with regard to thinking, feeling and acting among women during and after the intervention. As the women developed a number of mental capacities essential to coping and life management, we constructed a theoretical proposition, which offers an explanation of their socio-cognitive empowerment. We supplement the basis for these concepts that emerged in this proposition by integrating them with psychological and social work theories into a broader conceptual framework for social work practice.

Applications: A conceptual framework has been developed to provide structural support for social work practice with women in the Middle East. This framework can help social workers to bridge the gap between theory and practice; that is, to draw from existing social work theory and, through our model, better apply this knowledge in their practical work with women in challenging social environments.

Keyword
Women, empowerment, socio-cognitive mindfulness, problem-solving, Iran, Middle East
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88192 (URN)
Available from: 2013-01-31 Created: 2013-01-31 Last updated: 2013-01-31Bibliographically approved
4. Can a psychosocial intervention programme teaching coping strategies improve the quality of life of Iranian women? A non-randomised quasi-experimental study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Can a psychosocial intervention programme teaching coping strategies improve the quality of life of Iranian women? A non-randomised quasi-experimental study
2013 (English)In: BMJ Open, ISSN 2044-6055, E-ISSN 2044-6055, Vol. 3, no 3, 2407- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objectives: To assess whether a psychosocial intervention teaching coping strategies to women can improve quality of life (QOL) in groups of Iranian women exposed to social pressures.

Design: Quasi-experimental nonrandomized group design involving two categories of Iranian women, each category represented by nonequivalent intervention and comparison groups.

Setting: A large urban area in Iran.

Participants: 44 women; 25 single mothers and 19 newly married women.

Interventions: Seventh-month psychosocial intervention aimed at providing coping strategies.

Primary outcome measures: Effect sizes in four specific health-related domains and two overall perceptions of QOL and health measured by the WHOQOL-BREF instrument.

Results: Large effect sizes were observed among the women exposed to the intervention in the WHOQOL-BREF subdomains measuring physical health (r=0.68; p<0.001), psychological health (r=0.72; p<0.001), social relationships (r=0.52; p<0.01), environmental health (r=0.55; p<0.01), and in the overall perception of QOL (r=0.72; p<0.001); the effect size regarding overall perception of health was between small and medium (r=0.20; not significant). Small and not statistically significant effect sizes were observed in the women provided with traditional social welfare services.

Conclusions: Teaching coping strategies can improve the QOL of women in societies where gender discrimination is prevalent. The findings require reproduction in studies with a more rigorous design before the intervention model can be recommended for widespread distribution.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BMJ Open, 2013
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88193 (URN)10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002407 (DOI)000330560500053 ()
Available from: 2013-04-05 Created: 2013-01-31 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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