A phenomenological study of the experience of lay counsellors working with victims of abuse
This research explored the experience of lay counselors that live in a township and work with victims of abuse from the same township. It sought to gain an understanding of how this context impacts on their work with victims of trauma. It used a phenomenological methodology to structure the interviews and the analysis of the experiences described in the interviews. The research found, in the descriptions the counselors gave of their experiences, that they had extreme difficulty working with victims of trauma. Their difficulty appeared to be particularly related to dealing with the graphic content of the descriptions the victims gave of their experiences and the related intense emotions. A major factor related to the particular context that seemed to impact negatively on their ability to work with victims of suma was their own feelings of vulnerability to criminal violence. Another factor that was seen as impacting negatively on their ability to function was the lack of access to supervision and ongoing professional support, as few professionals choose to work within this context. It appeared, however, that they generally were coping with the other aspects of their role as counselors, and saw the work as having benefited them personally, by empowering them. Furthermore they saw the work as having a certain existential significance for them, as they saw themselves working for a better future in South Africa. These two factors appeared to counter some of their negative perceptions around the difficulty of the work. The research was able to identify certain problem areas specific to the context and make certain recommendations for further research into lay counselors working within this context.
Presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (Clinical Psychology) at the Faculty of Arts of the University of the Witwatersrand