Charlie Jackson presents on her research Counselling professionals’ awareness and understanding of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): implications for training and research.
Whilst the physical implications of FGM have been well documented, much less research has looked at the psychological impact of FGM (Mulongo, McAndrew & Martin, 2014). Furthermore, there is little known about the understanding and awareness of FGM amongst counselling professionals. Therefore, the study aimed to explore BACP members’ awareness and understanding of FGM, to gauge their training needs and examples of best therapeutic practice when working with survivors..
Design/Methodology: BACP, in collaboration with representatives from the Department of Health (DH) FGM Prevention Programme, designed a online survey which was distributed to 41,599 BACP members; 2,073 (5.0%) members responded. The survey covered four broad themes: demographics; awareness and understanding of FGM; experience of working therapeutically with survivors and FGM training. Descriptive and inferential analyses were undertaken on quantitative data and thematic content analysis was undertaken on qualitative data.
Results/Findings: Only a small proportion of respondents (10%) had knowingly worked with survivors of FGM. Overall, respondents lacked confidence in their awareness and understanding of FGM, including their safeguarding duties, although respondents who had knowingly worked with survivors were significantly more confident in their knowledge. Respondents felt that helpful factors when working therapeutically with survivors of FGM included having cultural respect, knowledge and understanding, being nonjudgemental/accepting and listening to the client. The most unhelpful factor was having ‘a general lack, or assumption of, awareness or understanding’. Less than a quarter of respondents had undertaken any training with regards to FGM, although the vast majority expressed a desire to do so.
Research Limitations: As the focus was on counselling professionals’ perceptions and experiences, it cannot be concluded that these are reflective of FGM survivors’ experiences of counselling. In addition, the small number of practitioners who had knowingly worked with survivors - and the low survey response rate in general - limits the generalisability of these findings.
Conclusions/Implications: This research has highlighted the importance of improving signposting to existing training and educational resources around FGM, as well as the need to develop new resources where appropriate. The importance of embedding cultural competency into core practitioner training, not just training specific to FGM, is paramount.
Charllie Jackson is a research fellow at BACP
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