A Heuristic Study of Counsellors’ Understanding and Experience of the Nature of Shame and the Impact of Shame on Therapeutic Contact.
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AbstractThe aim of this qualitative heuristic research study was to provide insight into the lived experience of shame and the impact of shame on the therapeutic relationship. The experience of the researcher is found within the study, integrating her own experience with the personal accounts of the participants and the literature on shame. Semi-structured interviews were conducted using four experienced, qualified therapists who were grounded in their understanding of shame. A latent thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. As this was a heuristic study the researcher also kept a reflective journal throughout the process. The following five themes emerged: understanding of shame; physiology of shame; socially constructed aspects of shame, impact of shame and shame and therapy. Shame was found to be innately felt by humans with specific physical characteristics including blushing, downcast eyes and feeling small. The content of what is perceived as shameful can be culturally, gender and experientially specific. Shame is established as an intrinsic part of society in establishing norms and boundaries. However, excess of shame is indicated as a factor in P. T. S. D., mental health problems, social isolation and violence against self or others. In this study silence, negative self-talk and resistance were found to be both characteristic behaviour developed as defence against further shaming and combined with support, compassion and connection factors in reparative growth. There is potential for shame to cause a rupture in the therapeutic relationship. However, where shame is worked with in therapy it can be a source of therapeutic growth. Counsellor awareness of shame processes, self-regulation and self-care were indicated as important for working with shame to ensure modelling a grounded presence for the client. All four participants work on shame had influenced their choice of therapy as a career. However, none of the participants had received any training about shame during their initial training. The findings emphasised the need for including working with personal shame in both professional development and counselling training courses. This research supports previous research and provides opportunities for further research.
CitationCarr, A. (2019). A Heuristic Study of Counsellors’ Understanding and Experience of the Nature of Shame and the Impact of Shame on Therapeutic Contact (Master's thesis). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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