‘It’s just an awful topic’: A psychosocial exploration of how educational psychologists encounter and respond to domestic abuse in their work

Cole, K (2018) ‘It’s just an awful topic’: A psychosocial exploration of how educational psychologists encounter and respond to domestic abuse in their work. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex.

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Abstract

The prevalence of domestic abuse in the UK and its impact on children and young people exposed to it suggests that it is likely to be encountered by educational psychologists (EP) in their work and that they could have a key role in supporting within educational settings. However, the subject has received sparse attention in the research literature of the profession. Whilst research exists more generally about professional responses to domestic abuse, there is little evidence of the use of psychosocial research methods. In order to address the gap in EP and psychosocial research around domestic abuse, this study explored from a psychosocial perspective how EPs encounter and respond to domestic abuse in their work. Four EPs were interviewed following the Free Association Narrative Interview method (Hollway & Jefferson, 2013). Thematic analysis was used to gather a picture of how EPs encounter domestic abuse in their work. The outcome of this analysis showed that for these participants, key elements of domestic abuse encounters were: Visibility (invisible/visible); Risk (danger/protection); Disturbance (disturbed/detached); Possibility (possible/impossible); and Learning (intellectual/experiential). Evidence of defence against unwanted thoughts and feelings in relation to domestic abuse work was then explored through individual analysis, paying attention to hesitations and avoidances in the interviews as well as the researcher’s own experience of interview encounters. This analysis, supported by psychosocial supervision, suggested that there were aspects of domestic abuse that appeared threatening to participants. These pertained to describing the abuse; situations of conflict; experiences of helplessness; negative evaluations; and feelings of shock, horror, and fear. The outcomes of this study suggest that domestic abuse is an emotive topic for EPs that is hard to process and requires further education and support to enable domestic abuse to be talked about and managed in a safe way when encountered in EP

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the Professional Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology awarded by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in association with the University of Essex. Available to download on 27 March 2021.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology, Edpsych Updates
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Abuse & Neglect - Psychology
Families > Families - Social Welfare
Learning & Education > Educational Psychology
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
Research
URI: http://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/2101

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