Looking inside the face
: experiences of living with an accidentally acquired facial disfigurement and its perceived impact on identity; Interpretative phenomenological analysis

  • Sania Manjlai

Student thesis: PsychD


This thesis focuses on women who have accidentally acquired a facial disfigurement and their perceptions, perspectives, and experiences of identity. This research aims to add to this overlooked topic within counselling psychology through the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Adopting a phenomenological approach allows for indepth exploration of the experience of identity after accidentally acquiring a facial disfigurement.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six female participants who had accidentally acquired a facial disfigurement in the past one to five years. Transcripts were then coded and analysed to produce emergent themes, which were used to construct three superordinate themes with accompanying subthemes: ‘Shattered self’ included the subthemes ‘Person behind the face’, ‘Aftermath’, ‘Loss of self’, and ‘Outsider after once belonging’. The second superordinate theme was named ‘Front seat of identity’ and included the subthemes ‘Expressionless’, ‘Identifying with exclusion’, and ‘Separation of mind and body’. Finally, ‘Sculpted self’ encompassed ‘Made peace with pain’, ‘Touching death’, and ‘Integration of self’.

Insight gathered in this study is aimed to help understand how the face links to one’s identity through the experience of accidentally acquiring a facial disfigurement. This research highlighted key psychological difficulties experienced by this group including shame, loss of the old self, post-traumatic stress disorder, stages of grief, a sense of injustice, social exclusion, complexities of integrating the old and new identity, loneliness and social isolation. In understanding the unique, specific needs of this group, we can begin to form tailored psychological support.
Date of Award15 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorRosemary Rizq (Supervisor) & Edith Steffen (Supervisor)


  • Facial disfigurement
  • Identitiy
  • Accidentally Acquired Facial Disfigurement
  • Phenomenology of Identity
  • Face

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