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Title: 'Neutralising the patient' : an interpretative phenomenological analysis of therapists' accounts of sexual boundary violations
Author: McNulty, Nick
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2009
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Sexual contact between psychological therapists and their clients is regarded as highly damaging, both to the clients and to the professions. Regulatory bodies impose increasingly severe sanctions upon disciplined therapists. Theoretical accounts of these sexual boundary violations were generally psychodynamic in orientation and observational in character. This study sought to capture therapists’ own accounts of sexual contact with clients. Three therapists who had been disciplined following sexual relationships with current or former clients were interviewed. Analysis of the transcripts using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis suggested that, for these therapists, an important step in enabling the relationship was a neutralisation of the client’s status as a mental health patient. This was achieved by minimising their mental health problems and emphasising the conventionality of the relationship. The origins of the relationship were not revealed to supervisors. The course of the relationship had important implications for the therapist’s identity, whether they saw themselves as a victim or a perpetrator. An important goal for future research efforts was to establish whether these beliefs represented efforts to avoid shame or condemnation, or were enabling scripts that might facilitate boundary violations. The study generated material for training interventions. It also reinforced the central importance of the supervisory relationship in helping therapists to avoid sexual contact with clients.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available