Private Parts: A Heuristic Inquiry Into the Relational-Cultural Experience of Chronic Pelvic Pain




Hudson, Brittany Christyne

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Chronic pelvic pain is a complex condition that impacts up to one in five women in the United States. Despite its prevalence, chronic pelvic pain has been marginalized throughout history. Women with chronic pelvic pain often feel disempowered in their relationships. The associated mental health outcomes are pertinent to counselors. However, counselors have few scholarly resources on chronic pelvic pain to reference. There remains a need for theoretically informed counseling research on the experiences and needs of women with chronic pelvic pain. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and depict the relational-cultural experience of chronic pelvic pain. The integrated theoretical framework included feminist disability studies and relational-cultural theory. I utilized heuristic inquiry to collect and analyze data from eight women with chronic pelvic pain. I identified four interrelated themes, as represented by the infinity symbol: feeling isolated and misunderstood ∞ seeking understanding and care ∞ negotiating sexual relationships ∞ finding and creating community. This study points to the difficulty of and need for relationships. The findings suggest that the sexualization of chronic pelvic pain is a force of disconnection. In this dissertation, I discuss the findings and their implications for counseling, counselor education and supervision, and future research.


The author has granted permission for their work to be available to the general public.


chronic pelvic pain, counseling, feminist, heuristic inquiry, qualitative, relational-cultural theory, counselor education, United States