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Title: Counselling and clinical psychologists' experience of client violence in the workplace
Author: Jussab, Fardin
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 9795
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2013
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Violence and abuse from clients within the healthcare system is a growing problem which can affect the personal and professional identity, and psychological wellbeing of healthcare professionals. Previous research and literature has focused on the risk of violence from particular client groups and understanding the aetiology of aggressive and violent behaviour towards healthcare professionals. There is a lack of research which explores psychologists’ experiences of client violence, and professional organisations have provided scant or no guidelines that could support psychologists who have experienced violence at work. To address the gaps in the present literature, this research qualitatively explored how psychologists make sense of their lived experiences of client violence in the workplace. Three counselling psychologists and four clinical psychologists who had previously experienced client violence were interviewed to take part in this research. Data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). IPA was selected for its idiographic nature, as it was hoped that the findings would provide a deeper understanding of psychologists’ experience of client violence from their personal account. IPA can also assist in developing guidelines for a specific purpose to support professionals in their work, which was a secondary aim of the research. The findings revealed that psychologists can undergo different types of experiences after being attacked by a client, and experiencing and responding to client violence has a significant effect upon their professional identity. Three superordinate themes emerged from the IPA, which relate to the different phases after an experience of client violence. The first theme - ‘the moment to moment experience of client violence’ - relates to the exact instant the incident took place and how the client’s aggression had taken the psychologist by surprise. The second theme - ‘post incident experience’ -describes how participants tried to make sense of their experience of client violence, such as by creating a formulation. The final theme - ‘issues concerning professional identity’ - refers to the participants' need to show that they can cope with client violence due their professional self-image of being a psychologist. More broadly, the findings revealed how the professional self-image of psychologists affects their beliefs about how they ‘should’ be able to work therapeutically with violent clients and be able to manage and understand it. It is recommended that further research explores the prevalence of psychologists who experience client violence, and the type of work settings in which this is most likely. Moreover, both neophyte and qualified psychologists would benefit from specific training in how to respond safely to violent client behaviour, and from the publication of professional guidelines to help them understand the possible risks of violence, decisionmaking when confronted with violent clients, and how to recognise and process the potential psychological repercussions of violence incidents.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Prof.) Qualification Level: Doctoral