An exploration of Rape Crisis counsellors' experiences of stress and coping in the context of their work

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study attempts to explore the experiences of stress and coping amongst volunteer counsellors in a Rape Crisis organisation in the context of their counselling work. The literature on vicarious traumatization provides a basis for understanding that trauma counselling can be stressful for counsellors. The study draws on a theoretical base which indicates that neither subjective stress nor coping experiences can be fully understood through a stance which isolates the individual's experience from its context. Informed by the theoretical review and the aims of the study it was decided that a qualitatively design would best access counsellors internal subjective as well as contextually constructed world. The methods of this study consist of a combination of methods, including individual semi-structured interviews, a focus group and accessing information about the organisation. The thematic analysis suggests that counsellors are struggling with issues which stem from the anxieties elicited by the nature of the rape trauma, as well as with parallel institutional and social issues. The themes of transgression of boundaries, the inability to speak out, power and the feminist collective seem to emerge as dominant themes in counsellors expressions of their experiences of stress and coping. These issues seem to parallel the rape, violation, domination, silence and isolation which are part of the social position of women in our society.

Bibliography: leaves 73-77.