Counselling Psychologists’ Experiences of Working with Survivors of Sexual Abuse: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Somasekar, S. 2020. Counselling Psychologists’ Experiences of Working with Survivors of Sexual Abuse: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsSomasekar, S.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This research aimed to explore the experiences of counselling psychologists working with survivors of sexual abuse in the UK. The rationale for this research is illustrated through a critical review of the existing literature examining the impact of working with survivors of sexual trauma on mental health professionals, which demonstrates a dearth of research examining this specific experience in counselling psychologists.
Six counselling psychologists were interviewed with the use of semi-structured interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was then used to conduct an in-depth analysis of the data, where four super-ordinate themes were constructed: “The experience of being with the client”; “Prevailing responses to the work”; “Being equipped for the work” and “Managing the complexities of the work”. Each superordinate theme was supported by sub-ordinate themes which highlighted the nuances and complexities that exist in working with this specific client group. The analysis demonstrated the multitude of challenges faced by participants, starting with sitting in the room with the client and extending to lasting changes in participants’ perception of the world. More specifically, the emotional cost of the work, the intricacies of the therapeutic relationship, and the prominence with which aspects of this work permeate
personal lives were seen. A key component emerging from the analysis was the necessity of being adequately prepared for the work which could be further supported by counselling psychology training. This research also demonstrated that despite the challenges and pervasive complexities of the work, counselling psychologists have not only found ways to cope through the use of different strategies, they have indeed been able to find joy in the work.
This research provides an insight into the lived experience of practitioners working with survivors of sexual abuse, and offers contributions to training, clinical practice, and research. Enhancements to training to facilitate working with this client group and an increase in support offered to practitioners emerged as crucial areas that need to be addressed in order to sustain the well-being of counselling psychologists and other mental health professionals, which will further benefit survivors of sexual abuse seeking therapy.

PublisherUniversity of East London
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Online24 Jul 2020
Publication process dates
SubmittedAug 2019
Deposited24 Jul 2020
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