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

Positive Counsellor Characteristics with Sexual Minority Intimate Partner Violence Victims/Caractéristiques Positives De Conseillers Travaillant Avec Victimes De Violence Aux Mains De Partenaires Intimes D'une Minorité Sexuelle

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

Positive Counsellor Characteristics with Sexual Minority Intimate Partner Violence Victims/Caractéristiques Positives De Conseillers Travaillant Avec Victimes De Violence Aux Mains De Partenaires Intimes D'une Minorité Sexuelle

Article excerpt

Scholars and practitioners in the counselling profession continue to produce significant advances in work with ethnic minorities. However, counsellor competency with sexual minorities remains underdeveloped, specifically in the area of work with sexual minority intimate partner violence victims (SMIPWs). By contrast, research regarding competency in counselling heterosexual intimate partner violence victims is prolific (Hellmuth, Follansbee, Moore, & Stuart, 2008; Murray & Mobley, 2009; Speziale & Ring, 2006). The SMIPW population is at a heightened risk because they are both a generally oppressed group and victims of abuse (Cruz & Firestone, 1998). Further research into establishing specific factors important for enhancing counsellor competency with SMIPWs is important in order to provide the best practices for this at-risk population. Best practices can help to ensure that only the most effective treatments are provided and will discourage the use of non-empirically based treatments.

I argue that research exploring competency in counselling SMIPWs is essential to improving client outcomes. Research in intimate partner violence (ÏPV) conducted thus far has primarily focused on heterosexual female victims (Balsam & Szymanski, 2005; Hellmuth et al., 2008). The literature that does exist on competency in counselling SMIPWs is almost entirely quantitative in nature (Hellmuth et al., 2008; Murray & Mobley, 2009). Solely using quantitative research designs that focus on statistical significance and numerical data do not directly evoke the life expression of the research participants. For example, although numerical data can reveal the frequency with which a certain counselling technique was utilized, the frequency cannot directly communicate the rich qualitative psychological experience certain counselling techniques had on helping participants improve their quality of life. For that reason, a qualitative design from a queer theory perspective utilizing grounded theory methods was used for this study. Queer theory is a theoretical approach to examining culture that embraces an expanded understanding of gender and sexuality that rejects mainstream definitions (Valocchi, 2005). Simply stated, queer theory rejects what most people believe it means to be male, female, gay, or straight (Valocchi, 2005). Queer theory starts from the assumption that any given sexuality is natural and therefore is not in need of correction. This assumption is a concept that is largely ignored by other qualitative research (Warner, 2004). I used a grounded theory approach to conduct an in-depth exploration of the factors associated with counsellor competency with the SMIPW population and postulated those factors associated with counsellor competency.

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE

IPV is prevalent in the United States and affects men and women of any sexual orientation (Balsam & Szymanski, 2005; Hellmuth et al., 2008). IPV has significant negative impacts on the abused individual, including immediate and long-term physical health, mental health, family relationships, social support, occupational difficulties, and financial well-being (Heintz & Melendez, 2006; Murray & Mobley, 2009; National Institute of Justice, 2007). Those individuals experiencing intimate partner violence often live in a situation where their abusive partner has the ability to control multiple aspects of their lives, which causes many victims to find difficulty in asserting their needs and wants for social support and finances (Heintz & Melendez, 2006; Murray & Mobley, 2009).

Sexual Minorities and Intimate Partner Violence

There is a paucity of research in the scientific literature regarding the prevalence and factors associated with IPV and the sexual minority population (or SMIPWs). The research bias in favour of studying heterosexual couples affects the understanding of these victims. The majority of intimate partner violence studies focus on male violence against women in heterosexual relationships (Balsam & Szymanski, 2005; Murray & Mobley, 2009). …

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