Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Linda L. Belgrave

Second Committee Member

Marvin P. Dawkins

Third Committee Member

Doris N. Ugarriza

Fourth Committee Member

Crystal Adams


Through this project I attempt to understand the meaning and experience of using complementary/alternative healing among chronically ill individuals. A chronic illness/condition typically generates some disturbance in people. In the context of this turmoil, some individuals might make a choice to use healing options outside of regular allopathic medicine. I interviewed 16 women and 5 men with varied chronic illnesses/conditions to understand their meaning and experience with complementary/alternative healing. I approached the project from a symbolic interactionist standpoint and used grounded theory methodology to collect and analyze data. In the context of exploring the main research question several sub-questions emerged from the data and guided my project. The five main themes that emerged from the data were, naming of complementary/alternative healing, making a choice for complementary/alternative healing, evaluating benefits of complementary/alternative healing, problems pursuing complementary/alternative healing and the role of the healer in complementary/alternative healing. Through my findings I suggest, that there is nothing definite about the definition of complementary/alternative healing, even food and activities or pastimes get named as complementary/alternative healing if they hold meaning for a person. In addition, a multiplicity of factors affect the use and experience of complementary/alternative healing, whereby, the role of family, friends, location, influence of personalities and support groups are significant and relatively unexplored in the extant literature. There is also considerable complexity in the way people evaluate complementary/alternative healing. The type of healing technique, individual expectations, perceptions, major hurdles in pursuing other healing options, the connection with the healer for specific healing techniques are all important factors that affect the overall meaning and experience with complementary/alternative healing. These findings from my project have substantial implications for the understanding of complementary/alternative healing by future researchers and policy makers.


Complementary/Alternative Healing; Chronic Illness; Meaning; Grounded Theory; Symbolic Interactionism