'The work chips away parts of yourself' - Exploring therapists' experiences of working with survivors of domestic violence

Radu, Alina (2013). 'The work chips away parts of yourself' - Exploring therapists' experiences of working with survivors of domestic violence. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)

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Abstract

Domestic violence is a widespread concern in our society worldwide. Therapists and other mental health workers often come across clients who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence. There is significant research, predominantly quantitative, on the phenomenon of vicarious traumatisation/secondary trauma on social workers, domestic violence advocates and sexual abuse therapists. In contrast, research into the impact of domestic violence work on domestic violence therapists is sparse and fails to address how working with this client group might affect therapists’ intimate relationships. This study addresses this gap by exploring the lived experience of therapists who are or have been working with survivors of domestic abuse. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and the data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Participants were eight female domestic violence therapists, aged between 31 and 55 years of age, working in the field of domestic violence for over 5 years. Three superordinate themes emerged from the interview data: The journey of listening to the clients’ story; When work hits home; and The dawn of a new self. This study’s findings have been discussed in relation to existing literature in order to understand the mechanisms and processes involved in the experiences reported by participants. Therefore, suggestions can be made for training and clinical supervision for therapists who are working or who contemplate working with this client group. The therapist as “wounded healer” and the potential for vicarious traumatisation in therapists who work with survivors of domestic abuse are also explored. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: City University London PhD theses
School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/3040

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