The realities of caring: a qualitative exploration of mental health professionals' experience of working with survivors of trauma in Sri Lanka

Prof Doc Thesis

Satkunanayagam, Kuhan 2008. The realities of caring: a qualitative exploration of mental health professionals' experience of working with survivors of trauma in Sri Lanka. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsSatkunanayagam, Kuhan
TypeProf Doc Thesis

There is an increasing recognition of the transformative nature of trauma work and that
individuals are changed by the work they do with survivors of trauma. For mental health
professionals these changes could be both positive and negative. The present study engages
in a qualitative exploration of the impact of working with survivors of trauma. More
specifically it examines the professional and private experience of twelve mental health
practitioners in their work with survivors of trauma in the on-going conflict situation and
post-disaster setting of Sri Lanka. The aim is to provide some insight into our
understanding of the psychological processes which determine and maintain effective
coping strategies when working with survivors of trauma. Very little qualitative research
has been carried out in this area, with most research investigating moderating factors in
relation to "secondary trauma" using survey questionnaires and psychometric scales. Semistructured
in-depth interviews were carried out with twelve native mental health
professionals who had worked long-term with survivors of trauma in Sri Lanka. The data
analysis followed the theoretical principles of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
(IPA). The main analytic focus was to look at the meaningfulness of trauma work for the
participants from different perspectives. A second analytic focus was to explore some
aspects of the social constructedness of the participants' 'talk' about trauma work. The four
master themes that emerged collectively showed how working with survivors of trauma is
conceptualised and experienced. The complexity of these factors is illustrated by various
dialectical processes that seem to be in action in trauma work. Each of the four themes is
also examined with respect to the use of discourses and practices located within specific
social, cultural, historical, political and ideological contexts. These findings highlight the
importance of raising awareness of the potentiality of both "secondary trauma" and the
opportunities for "growth through adversity". The strategic role of reflective practice, selfcare
and supervision are discussed with respect to their implication for Counselling
Psychology. This study also considers the value of taking an authentic psycho-social
framework with a focus on the wider realities of social and cultural dynamics.

Publication dates
PrintMay 2008
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Jun 2014
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