Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Counselling Sexual-Violence Survivors: The Evolution of Female Counsellors' Critical Political Consciousness and the Effects on Their Intimate Relationships/Le Counseling Auprès Des Survivantes De la Violence Sexuelle: Développement D'une Conscience Politique Critique Chez Les Conseillères Féminines et Les Effets Sur Leurs Relations Intimes

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Counselling Sexual-Violence Survivors: The Evolution of Female Counsellors' Critical Political Consciousness and the Effects on Their Intimate Relationships/Le Counseling Auprès Des Survivantes De la Violence Sexuelle: Développement D'une Conscience Politique Critique Chez Les Conseillères Féminines et Les Effets Sur Leurs Relations Intimes

Article excerpt

Over the past two decades, vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress have become important in explaining the effects of counselling trauma survivors on counsellors' work and personal lives. However, there is a dearth of literature specifically associated with changes within intimate relationships experienced by those who work with female sexual violence (FSAO survivors. The scant amount of available research has shown that working with FSV survivors can affect therapists' sexual intimacy, which is feeling free to mutually express sexual wants and desires, and feeling comfortable being naked, looked at, and touched (Firestone, Firestone, & Catlett, 2006), particularly if elements of survivors' narratives intrude into intimate encounters (Trippany, White Kress, & Wilcoxon, 2004).

There is also a theoretical gap in the literature regarding counsellors who work with FSV survivors. Vicarious trauma (VT) continues to frame a great deal of research exploring changes in counsellors who work with this population. Although VT can be a useful framework for describing change in trauma therapists, it does not completely capture the change described by participants in this research.

The purpose of this research is to address these literature gaps using a social constructivist/constructionist approach to research, and a transformative learning (TL) theory to discuss changes within cognitive, emotional, and behavioural aspects of participants' intimate relationships. Previous doctoral thesis work focused on TL theory as a way to frame changes in the intimate relationships of those who work with FSV survivors (Garrity, 2009). This theory became prominent through participant interviewing. Simultaneous interviewing and analysis showed categories that described experiences similar to those that are described as VT Analysis indicated, however, that participants described shifting worldviews, and that they experienced intrusive imagery and intense emotions that were transformative and conscious-raising.

TL theory became the framework in which data were interpreted in the current study. A literature review using Psychlnfo, ClNAHL, and ProQuest indicated that there is no research using this theory to discuss changes experienced by trauma counsellors.

FRAMEWORKS EXPLORING CHANGE AND INTIMACY IN SEXUAL VIOLENCE COUNSELLORS

This section reviews (a) two frameworks for exploring trauma-counsellor change, vicarious trauma, and transformative learning; (b) a framework for exploring intimate relationships; and (c) a feminist perspective on sexual violence. These areas are reviewed because they are key areas informing this research.

Trauma-Counsellor Change

There is considerable literature discussing broad cognitive (McCann Oc Pearlman, 1990; Saakvitne & Pearlman, 1996; Van Deusen & Way, 2006), emotional (Blair & Ramones, 1996; Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995; Trippany et al., 2004; Wasco & Campbell, 2002), and behavioural (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995; Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995) changes experienced by those who work with trauma survivors, including survivors of sexual violence. The frameworks commonly used are vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress. Only the VT framework is discussed in this literature review because it is most commonly applied to explain the psychological effects on counsellors working with sexual violence survivors. Vicarious trauma was also the initial theoretical framework for my broad research question: How does working with female sexual violence survivors affect female counsellors' intimate relationships? During both data collection and analysis, however, I discovered that VT was not what participants described.

VICARIOUS TRAUMA

Vicarious trauma describes the negative psychological effects that therapists experience through empathie engagement with survivors of trauma, particularly sexual violence survivors (McCann & Pearlman, 1 990), and a negative transformation of therapists' beliefs and assumptions about the world, themselves, and others (Jenkins & Baird, 2002; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995; Saakvitne & Pearlman, 1996; Schauben & Frazier, 1995; Sexton, 1999; Trippany et al. …

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