MA Counselling Psychology thesis defence

Academic Events
Trinity Western University
Alumni Hall, Reimer Student Centre
7600 Glover Road
Langley, BC V2Y 1Y1

MA Counselling Psychology thesis defence,

"The Lived Experience of Moral Injury in the Context of Intimate Partner Relationships: A Phenomenological Exploration”

By: Sara Kuburic
Supervisor: Dr. Mihaela Launeanu
Second Reader: Dr. Derrick Klaassen
External Examiner: Dr. Tennyson Samraj, Professor, Burman University, Alberta
Exam Chair: Dr. Bart Begalka


Moral injury (MI) represents a unique psychological suffering instigated by one’s transgression of moral values, beliefs, and expectations. MI has a serious negative impact on the psychological, existential, behavioural, and relational aspects of an individual’s life. At its core, MI shakes and sometimes shatters one’s sense of self, perception of humanity, and overall worldview, bringing into question fundamental values of the human existence. Thus far, research studies on MI have focused almost exclusively on investigating MI within the military context, and no study has yet investigated the lived experience of MI.

The present study aimed to examine the lived experience of MI in the context of intimate partner relationships. To this end, adult participants who self-identified as having experienced moral injury due to emotional abuse and/or infidelity within their intimate partner relationships were interviewed using hermeneutic phenomenology as research method. Through the phenomenological analysis of the participants’ lived experience, six core thematic meanings of MI emerged: (1) self-estrangement, (2) transgressions and discord, (3) sudden awareness, (4) lostness and sorrow, (5) will to change, and (6) the aftermath. Phenomenological writing further elaborated these thematic meanings in an effort to uncover the phenomenon of MI in the context of intimate partner relationships.

The findings of this study uncovered the phenomenon of MI as a process of unraveling, becoming and transforming through suffering. The theoretical contributions and clinical implications of this study are discussed in terms of emphasizing the transformative potential of moral injury experienced in relational context. Moreover, this study revealed the importance of self and self-estrangement in the experience of MI, in addition to other key components of the phenomenon (i.e., awareness and agency).