Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

David Boromisza-Habashi

Second Advisor

Bryan Taylor

Third Advisor

Cindy White


This study is an ethnographic account of the Communication Improvement Group, an eating disorder (ED) support group that practices a communication skill, nonviolent communication (NVC), as a way of coping with their illness. By situating the study in literature on social support and communication skills training programs, I examine how and why members of the Communication Improvement Group find NVC useful and meaningful for their recovery from an ED. Influenced by cultural communication and the ethnography of communication, this study uses speech codes theory to examine the shared cultural premises informing two communication practices occurring within the group: the practice of “healing” and the practice of “connecting.” For members of the Communication Improvement Group, “healing” is the process of self-improvement by examining and discarding a part of themselves that they see as problematic or undesirable. “Connecting” is engaging in empathetic communication with their conversational partners that seeks to resolve conflict. Both of these communication practices reveal cultural premises about communication shared by members of the Communication Improvement Group, namely, that communication skills can make you a better person and strengthen your relationship, and that conflict is a result of unexpressed emotions as opposed to competing interests.