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Therapist's construction of trauma work and negotiating the therapeutic relationship

D'Mello, Danielle (2016). Therapist's construction of trauma work and negotiating the therapeutic relationship. (Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This study aims to critically explore the discourses therapists use to construct trauma. Five therapists (two counselling psychologists, one clinical psychologist, one gestalt therapist and one psychotherapist), who self-identified as working with trauma, were interviewed. The transcripts were analysed using Foucauldian discourse analysis. The results were divided into ‘pathologising’ and ‘non-pathologising’ discourses of trauma. The ‘pathologising’ theme includes the discourses of ‘psychiatry’, ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’, ‘vicarious trauma’ and ‘developmental trauma and resilience’. The ‘non-pathologising’ discourses are ‘posttraumatic growth’, ‘embodiment’ and ‘feminism’. The findings are used to argue that the ‘pathologising’ discourses of trauma exacerbate power imbalance in the therapeutic relationship through the way the therapist and client are positioned, and that a more fluid, aligned relationship may be allowed from the ‘non-pathologising’ discourses. The way the ‘pathologising’ discourses construct emotion in binary terms of positive and negative is critiqued, as the ‘nonpathologising’ discourses allow difficult emotions to be constructed as a potentially enriching experience rather than a symptom to be alleviated. It is suggested that the ‘pathologising’ discourses neglect the body or construct it as a site for the experience of symptoms, and the ‘non-pathologising’ discourses may allow the embodied experiences of trauma to be constructed as useful in the process of recovery. These results were considered in the context of existing literature and recommendations for future practice and research are presented.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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