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Journal Article Review: 'Boredom in Recovery for Adult Substance Users With HIV or AIDS ...

Hillary_WilliamsCorvinelli, Antonietta (2010). 'Boredom in Recovery for Adult Substance Users With HIV/AIDS Attending an Urban Day Treatment Program' reviewed by Hilary Williams, Lead Occupational Therapist – Research and Development, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust…

Antoinetta Corvinelli from New York University, New York conducted a qualitative inquiry using grounded theory methodology to explore the experience of boredom for a group of eights adults (6 men and 2 women ranging in age from 44 to 60) in recovery from substance use disorder and who also have HIV/AIDS.  Data was collected over a nine month period, in the centre in which they were receiving treatment.  The interviews were semi-structured in nature.  Sample questions which guided the interviews are provided in the paper.  Subsequent interviews were carried out to follow up on gaps in the information from the initial interviews; a total of 21 interviews took place.  Interview transcripts were analyzed using the constant comparative method of analysis.

Findings from this study are represented by three themes: Just so natural; top-shelf; the working drug world incorporated (inc.) and one meta-theme what makes a life a life?   

A definition of, the interrelationships between the themes and meta-themes are detailed in the paper and illustrated with participants narratives, bringing these themes to life.  The themes and accompanying narratives are related to a number of boredom theories, including Csikszentmihalyi’s optimal arousal theory, Zuckerman’s theory on sensation-seeking and Fenichel’s ordinary versus disordered boredom theories.  For the participants in this study boredom is defined as the ‘tenacious perception of nothingness that gives time for, or the opportunity to reflect on dreams, accomplishments, and failures in ones life’ and can be considered in mental (thinking and feeling components) and physical (‘nothing to do’ in the immediate surroundings) parts (page 123) and they remain susceptible to boredom years into recovery (page 125)

The author discusses the trustworthiness and limitations of the study aswell as the implications of her work, including ‘that without a larger career or life theme, contentment with boredom is a hefty challenge.’ She makes specific reference to the challenge for occupational therapists and comments that perfectly matching challenges that involve continual novelty and new learning may be important to a successful recovery (page 125).

With its rich and detailed material, this article is one that takes time to read and reflect upon, but does make a valuable contribution to further understanding the experience of boredom within a specific population.  It is a paper I would recommend anyone with an interest in this field read and consider. I look forward to reading further papers by this author.     

Reference: Corvinelli, Antonietta (2010). 'Boredom in Recovery for Adult Substance Users With HIV/AIDS Attending an Urban Day Treatment Program', Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 26: 2, 99 — 130.