• Presentation

Resiliency factors among women who use methamphetamine: Implications for the design of strength-based interventions

Citation

Wenger, L., Lorvick, J., Lutnick, A., Bourgois, P., & Kral, A. (2012, October). Resiliency factors among women who use methamphetamine: Implications for the design of strength-based interventions. Presented at American Public Health Association 140th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, October 27-31, .

Abstract

Background: Life histories of homeless women who use methamphetamine are fraught with narratives of sexual and physical violence, poverty, neglect and loss. Many support themselves by engaging in illegal activities, live on the streets and struggle with mental illness. They are a marginalized and stigmatized group of women. Given the high prevalence of trauma, these women are often seen as victims with limited control over their life circumstances. This presentation describes ways in which women exhibit resiliency and strength and we suggest how health promotion interventions can tap into these strengths. Methods: Qualitative life history interviews were conducted with 40 women who use methamphetamine in San Francisco. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were coded and analyzed using an inductive approach. Results: Throughout their life histories, women described making calculated decisions related to their sexual behavior, parenting options, drug use and their relationships with intimate partners. They actively carried out strategies that helped them cope with difficult situations and reduce their risks. Amidst chaos and limited options, they present narratives of strength, empathy and forgiveness. Conclusions: By tapping into specific areas where women show resiliency, strengths-based interventions shift attention from pathology and stigma to empowerment. Working with these women form a place of strength creates the opportunity for them to concentrate on areas of their lives where they have a sense of control and confidence. Strengths-based interventions could create enhanced opportunities for homeless, drug using women to change their health behaviors in the context of their daily lives.