Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Sexual Abuse Counsellors' Responses to Trauma and Stress: a Social Work Perspective

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posted on 2021-11-08, 04:31 authored by Pack, Margaret Jane

Using a qualitative research methodology, this study explores the range of social, organisational and theoretical factors that impact on sexual abuse counsellors. The relevance of the concept of vicarious traumatisation and the theoretical framework of constructivist self-development theory, as presented in the original study of McCann and Pearlman (1990) are investigated using a social work perspective. Secondly, the relationship between sexual abuse counsellors' responses to trauma and the theoretical frameworks identified as fruitful in their work with sexual abuse survivors are explored. Thirdly, the significant others of the primary participants were interviewed to elicit their perspectives of the impact of the work on their relationships with the counsellor-participants. This thesis adds to the body of knowledge about stress and trauma among sexual abuse therapists by introducing a multi-layered understanding of the challenges faced. It suggests that there are ways in which social workers and therapists can develop awareness and understanding of trauma and stress on multiple levels. It underlines the importance of workers sampling and integrating into their practice a wide range of theoretical approaches. These approaches which include narrative, strengths-based, critical-reflective, feminist and emancipatory frameworks provide a way for workers to connect with themselves, which is tansferred into fostering effective connections with clients, colleagues and their significant others. Maintaining relationship is the primary theme of this research which protects the counsellor from the fragmenting sense of disjuncture, that is a key experience of sexual abuse work Practice in a synthesis of theoretical frameworks provides a context for establishing and maintaining connections on a variety of levels: with the self and identity of the therapist, with others including clients, and with the wider social discourses in which their work is located.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Social Work

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Laing, Patricia