The journey of listening to someone: therapists’ meaning-making of the impact of working with sexual abuse survivor groups

Toombes, Alexandra E. (2009) The journey of listening to someone: therapists’ meaning-making of the impact of working with sexual abuse survivor groups. DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The topic of study is concerned with the impact that working with sexual abuse survivor groups has on therapists. The existing literature primarily utilises quantitative methodologies and is, on the whole, concerned with the negative impact of trauma work. Previous studies have suggested that qualitative research exploring the experiences of therapists working in this field would provide a richer understanding of the potential impacts. The methodological limitations and shortcomings of the existing research base are addressed, specifically the lack of research on group therapists.


This study aimed to provide a qualitative, phenomenological exploration of the impact that therapists state, working with sexual abuse survivor groups, has had on them.


Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to conduct an in-depth study of a small sample of group therapists.


Multi-site ethics approval was gained to conduct the study within two local NHS trusts and an independent sector service. Therapists were selected using purposive sampling from these services. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five therapists who ran groups for adult survivors of sexual abuse. Verbatim transcripts were analysed using IPA.


Two concurrent theme groups were described. Themes concerned with the impact that the work has on the therapists, were discussed under the headings ‘Sense of Responsibility’, ‘Impact’, ‘Protecting and Maintaining Sense of Self’, ‘Contradictions in Narratives’ and ‘Evolving Impact’. Furthermore, findings related to the aspects of working within a group setting, were titled ‘Unique Aspects of the Group Setting’ and ‘Group Milieu’.


Therapists did not ascribe to having ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ impacts, but seemed to simultaneously experience both, having created meaning for the impact of the work. Furthermore, in contradiction to previous literature, the therapists felt that working in a group setting had less potential to traumatise the facilitators. Implications for clinical practice and future research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: Sabin-Farrell, R.
Thomas, S.
Keywords: psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, psychotherapist and patient, sexual abuse victims, sexual abuse survivor groups
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC 321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute of Work, Health and Organisations
Item ID: 10883
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2010 09:28
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 12:00

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