The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has today (16 November 2016) published a report following research undertaken in conjunction with NHS England, the Department of Health (DH) and BACP members.
The report ‘Counselling professionals’ awareness and understanding of Female Genital Mutilation: training needs for working therapeutically with survivors’ was commissioned to develop insight into the awareness and understanding of FGM, as well as seeking examples of best therapeutic practice when working with survivors of FGM and identifying training resources to support this important work.
2,073 BACP members completed the survey which found that counsellors and psychotherapists felt they needed further support to build their confidence, awareness and understanding of their safeguarding responsibilities when working with survivors of FGM. Crucially, there is a genuine desire from the respondents to undertake training in these areas. Female Genital Mutilation, also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘cutting’, is an act of deliberate mutilation or changing of a female’s genitals where there is no medical reason for doing so (NHS Choices 2016). The act of carrying out FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985 when the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act was passed. This was replaced by the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland later passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2005.
FGM can cause serious harm, to women and girls by causing health complications which includes: constant pain, difficulty and or pain during sex, risk of repeated infections which could lead to infertility, complications during child birth and on passing urine.
Fiona Ballantine Dykes, Deputy Chair of the Board of Governors at BACP said, “There is increasing awareness of the severe psychological consequences of FGM for women and girls that have been subject to FGM; which can range from depression and anxiety to substance misuse and self-harm. Due to the extremely traumatic nature of FGM, problems may manifest as mental health issues at any point in their lives. To improve the care provided by counselling and psychotherapy professionals, on-going training and support nationally, locally and across a range of modalities should be made available and reviewed regularly.”
10% of the survey respondents had knowingly worked with FGM survivors and felt that they had a better understanding and awareness of FGM and were able to support their patients more effectively compared to practitioners who had not worked with survivors.
Less than 25% of all respondents had undertaken any training around FGM, although the majority wished to do so. The practitioners who had worked with survivors found that the following factors were helpful:
- cultural respect
- knowledge and understanding
- non-judgemental and accepting
The most unhelpful factors are:
- general lack of awareness
- lack of understanding
- forming assumptions
The survey findings will inform and support the DH FGM Prevention Programme which is a £3 million change programme launched in 2015 to improve the way in which the NHS responds to the health needs of girls and women who have been subject to FGM and to actively support prevention.
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