• Beyond the stereotypes: An exploration of female counsellors’ experience of working with male survivors of sexual abuse

      Parnell, Tony; Archdeacon, Jane (University of Chester, 2012-10)
      This study examines the experience of female counsellors working with male survivors of sexual abuse in the context of the social conditions which are brought into therapy by both the counsellor and the client. The concept of male sexual abuse stands in stark contrast to the notion of masculinity and male survivors often face the additional distress of their perceived failure to live up to our cultural notions of what it is to be a real man. Counsellors are exposed to the same cultural conditioning and bring preconceptions into therapy. This qualitative phenomenological study explored the experience of four female person-centred counsellors using semi-structured face to face interviews. The findings indicate that the counsellors were aware of the impact of social conditioning on their clients and recognised the additional distress this may cause. They were also aware of their own preconceptions about masculinity but seemed less conscious of the lingering impact that traditional gender role stereotyping has on their emotional responses to their clients. The participants found this work challenging personally and yet their commitment to their clients enabled them to offer a deep therapeutic relationship. Their clients were ready to work and fully engaged in the therapeutic process and somehow together they managed to find a healing space beyond the stereotypes.