The Therapists' Perspective on The Impacts and Coping Strategies of Counselling Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse Within Specialised Agencies

  • Julija Jain

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background: Sexual abuse is a highly distressing traumatic experience that negatively affects the lives of sexual abuse survivors. The number of individuals who reported sexual abuse has increased, which makes it a public and global concern. As a result, survivors of sexual abuse turn to counselling to cope with the traumatic impacts. Counsellors, psychotherapists, and psychologists engage in deep and meaningful explorations of the sexual abuse in order to support survivors. However, very little is known about the impacts and coping strategies involved in this type of work. Objectives: The objective of this study, therefore, was to explore the experiences of UK-based counselling professionals who counsel survivors of sexual abuse. The research questions were as follows: 1. What is the impact of counselling survivors of sexual abuse? and 2. What self-care strategies and coping techniques have been beneficial when counselling survivors of sexual abuse? Method: An inductive qualitative design was used for the purposes of this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve UK-based counselling professionals who provided counselling to individuals who had experienced sexual abuse. The collected data were then analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: The themes developed from the first research question revealed a number of ways in which counselling survivors of sexual abuse affected counselling professionals. Three main themes emerged from the data analysis: work-related impacts, impacts on personal wellbeing and relationship impacts. These themes encompassed a total of fourteen sub-themes. Another two main themes were developed when exploring participants' self-care techniques and coping strategies: holistic self-care and work environment selfcare. Both of these main themes incorporated twelve more sub-themes. These are introduced and outlined in depth in turn. Conclusions: This research has provided a unique insight into the impacts and coping strategies of UK-based counselling professionals working with survivors of sexual abuse. The findings suggest that the counsellors experienced a number of negative impacts, some of which were perceived as traumatic in nature. Further, the impacts were not limited to the counsellors themselves; partners, children, extended family, and friends were also affected by the work. Such far-reaching impacts of sexual trauma have not been sufficiently explored previously. Contrary to the negative tendencies expressed in the research literature, some of the findings indicate positive aspects, such as high job satisfaction and evolved personal growth. The findings of this study provide a rare insight into the useful self-care techniques and copings strategies specific for counselling survivors of sexual abuse. Although the strategies are similar to those used in other areas of counselling, they emphasize organisational and educational responsibilities to support counsellors' wellbeing. Suggestions are proposed for research, educational, organisational, and ethical developments.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Laura Winter (Supervisor)


  • impact
  • self-care techniques
  • coping strategies
  • survivors
  • counsellor
  • sexual abuse
  • psychotherapist
  • counselling psychology
  • trauma

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