Revisions to the therapeutic relationship: A qualitative inquiry into sexual abuse therapists’ theories for practice as a mitigating factor in vicarious traumatisation

Margaret Pack

Abstract


This article reports a qualitative study which explores sexual abuse counsellors’ theories for practice and how they say they develop and use an array of theoretical approaches to support their well-being and clinical effectiveness over time. Half the sample of Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) registered therapists were social workers who subsequently trained in other professions such as counselling and psychotherapy. The findings suggest that social workers who engage with traumatic disclosures from their clients actively evolve strategies and resources that act to buffer the more negative effects of the work with sexual abuse survivors, which is a means of ameliorating vicarious traumatisation.

Whilst there was little theory specific to trauma work in the early 1980s when the research participants were practising, they developed a framework for their practice based in practice and personal experiences. These developed insights and reference to diverse strands of theory together constitute a framework for practice that assists the counsellors’ in their understanding of their clients, the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship, organisational constraints on funding that surround their work, and their own self care. The theoretical frameworks that the participants preferred to use derive from social justice principles, feminist, narrative theories and the ‘New Trauma Therapy’ (Coffey 1998). Recommendations for clinician self care in dealing with traumatic disclosures with reference to a range of theoretical approaches are suggested.


Keywords


sexual abuse counselling; counselling, sexual abuse; social work; trauma; traumatic disclosures; new trauma theory;

Full Text:

PDF

References


Accident Compensation Commission. (1998). ACC Register of Approved Counsellors. Wellington: Author.

Accident Compensation Commission. (2007). ACC Sensitive Claims’ Treatment Providers Newsletter. Wellington: Author.

Adams, R., Dominelli, L., & Payne, M. (2009). Critical practice in social work. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Mcmillan.

Badger, K., Royse, D., & Craig, C. (2008). Hospital social workers and indirect trauma exposure: An exploratory study of contributing factors. Health and Social Work, 33(1), 63-71.

Briere, J. (1996). Therapy for adults molested as children: Beyond survival. New York: Springer Publishing.

Coffey, R. (1998). Unspeakable truths and happy endings: Human cruelty and the New Trauma Therapy. New York: Sidran Press.

Courtois, C. A. (1988). Healing the incest wound: Adult survivors in therapy. New York: W.W. Norton.

Courtois, C. A. (1997). Healing the incest wound: A treatment update with attention to recovered memory issues. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 51(4), 464-497.

Cunningham, M. (2003). Impact of trauma work on social work clinicians: Empirical findings. Social Work, 48(4), 451-59.

Dalenberg, C. (2000). Countertransference and the treatment of trauma. La Jolla Calf: American Psychological Association.

Davis, L., & Bass, E. (1992). The courage to heal (3rd ed.). New York: Harper Perennial.

Dutton, M. A. (1992). Empowering and healing the battered woman: A model for assessment and intervention. New York: Springer Publishing.

Fook, J. (2002). Social work: Critical theory and practice. London: Sage.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. (Myra Bergman Ramos, Trans.). New York: Seabury.

Geertz, C. (1975). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. London: Basic Books.

Gelso, C. J., & Hayes, J. A. (2007). Countertransference and the therapist’s inner experience: Perils and possibilities. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hayward, J. (2009, October 17). Letter to the Editor. Listener.

Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York, Basic Books.

Kay, M. (2009, October 28). Review of sex abuse compo. Dominion Post.

McCann, I. L., & Pearlman, L. A. (1990). Vicarious traumatisation: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3(1), 131-149.

Moulden, H. M., & Firestone, P. (2007). Vicarious traumatisation: The impact on therapists who work with sexual offenders. Trauma Violence and Abuse, 8(1), 67-83.

Pack, M. J. (2004). Sexual abuse counsellors’ responses to stress and trauma: A social work perspective. New Zealand Journal of Counselling, 25(2), 1-17.

Pack, M. J. (Forthcoming) Transformation in progress: The effects of trauma on the significant others of sexual abuse therapists. Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice.

Pearlman L. A., & MacIan, P. S. (1995). Vicarious traumatisation: An empirical study of the effects of trauma work on trauma therapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 26, 558-565.

Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K. W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatisation in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: Norton.

Pearlman, L. A., Saakvitne, K.W., & Staff of the Traumatic Stress Institute. (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatisation for helping professionals who work with traumatised clients. New York: Norton.

Reason, P. (Ed.). (1988). Human inquiry in action: Developments in new paradigm research. London: Sage Publications.

Reinharz, S. (1992). Feminist methods in social research. New York: Oxford University Press.

Steed, L. G., & Downing, R. (1998). Vicarious traumatisation amongst psychologists and professional counsellors working in the field of sexual abuse/assault. The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. Retrieved on 1 May 2009 at http://www.massey.ac.nz/~trauma/issues/1998-2/steed.htm

Yin, R. (1985). Case study research. New York: Sage Publications




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol21iss4id263

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.