Sass Boucher presents on her research Looking through a lens of terribleness': a thematicanalysis of practitioners working in the field of domestic violence.

Counsellors, Social Workers and Specialist Domestic Violence practitioners all work with clients who have experienced domestic violence. This study explores how listening to clients who have experienced fear, terror, physical violence and emotional abuse may impact on them. Work based stress is identified in literature, alongside concepts such as compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, secondary trauma and burnout as ways in which practitioners may be effected by their work.

Research outline

Design/Methodology: This qualitative Thematic Analysis, spans three professions. Social Workers in a Child Protection setting, Specialist Domestic Violence Practitioners in a specialist domestic violence agency and Counsellors practicing in a specialist domestic violence setting. The sampling for six participants, two from each profession, was purposive, recruited through existing professional and academic networks.

Results/Findings: Five themes developed through analysis.

  1. The Brutality of Domestic Violence encapsulates the reality for practitioners, revealing explicitly painful descriptions of client’s traumatic stories that practitioners are exposed to.
  2. Support - the Good and the Bad, explored the participant’s feelings around supervision and other organisational support.
  3. The Weight of Responsibility highlights participant’s heavy feelings of responsibility towards their role and client group.
  4. The Impact on Practitioners exposes professional experiences of burnout, stress and exhaustion, alongside deep personal reflection on their values and views of the world.
  5. Training and Awareness explores participant’s feelings of being unprepared for the extent of domestic abuse in their client group, and the potential for it to impact on them.

Research Limitations: Limitations include a small sample of participants. The small scale of the study prevented potentially valuable analysis on the concept and practice of self-care. As a qualitative piece, the role of the researcher is also an important consideration and part of the study.

Conclusions/Implications: It is hoped this research will support development around effective support for practitioners, reflective supervision is recommended for any practitioner providing emotional support by the BACP. This study also aims to create an awareness of the statutory framework for any practitioner working with clients at risk due to domestic abuse and that all participants felt unprepared for this area of work indicating a desire for domestic abuse to be included in professional training.

Presenter profile

Sass Boucher is a counsellor and psychotherapist at Keele University

Further information

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Presentation slides

Looking through a lens of terribleness': a thematicanalysis of practitioners working in the field of domestic violence (ppt 124 KB)

Looking through a lens of terribleness': a thematicanalysis of practitioners working in the field of domestic violence (pdf 124 KB)

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