An exploration of counselling psychologists’ understandings of domestic violence and abuse: Implications for theory and practice

Prof Doc Thesis

Knight, Zoe 2012. An exploration of counselling psychologists’ understandings of domestic violence and abuse: Implications for theory and practice. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Pyschology
AuthorsKnight, Zoe
TypeProf Doc Thesis

A growing body of knowledge suggests many mental health practitioners will work therapeutically with women who have experienced domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Relatively little research has focused specifically on the felt readiness of counselling psychologists when working with this group of clients. The present study adopts a qualitative approach to explore the private and public experiences of counselling psychologists in their work with women who have experienced DVA. The analytic aim is exploratory and aims to provide insight into the ways counselling psychologists understand DVA and the practices which establish and sustain therapeutic interventions undertaken. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were carried out with six counselling psychologists who had worked with women living with DVA. The narratives produced were mapped using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) highlighting understandings of DVA as well as some of the dilemmas and challenges that the participants engaged in as they negotiated their therapeutic work with their women clients. Four master themes emerged from the IPA analysis – “privately owned and professional/institutional/public ideological tensions”, “disclosure of domestic violence and abuse affects the therapeutic boundaries and goals”, “working with domestic violence and abuse provokes human, humanitarian and humanistic responses” and “hermeneutic repositioning”. These collectively demonstrate the multi-layered private and public conflicts that make up counselling psychologists therapeutic work with women experiencing DVA. The study also discusses the importance of raising awareness of the private and public clashes that working with DVA has the potential to ignite and the need to increase readiness in counselling psychology trainees to engage in the angst potentially triggered by working with DVA. The strategic role in increasing readiness to work with DVA, of therapeutic guidelines for DVA, reflective practice, self-care and supervision are discussed. This study also acknowledges the importance of specialist care for women experiencing DVA and calls for specialist DVA training for practitioners.

Keywordsdomestic violence; domestic abuse; interpretative phenomenological analysis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintApr 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Jul 2013
Publisher's version
Permalink -

Download files

  • 181
    total views
  • 455
    total downloads
  • 6
    views this month
  • 2
    downloads this month

Export as