Narrative Therapy and Abused Women:

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This paper will evaluate the effectiveness of Brief Narrative Therapy in treating abused women who are in shelters. In addition to living with violence, many women who seek shelter have been living in poverty, dependent on humanitarian aid, and suffering from trauma. Being abused undermines virtually every aspect of a woman’s life; her physical as well as her mental health. Psychiatric effects may include depression, suicidal thoughts, dissociation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, eating disorders, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In the delivery of effective clinical interventions with abuse survivors specific narrative practices and approaches will be addressed.The paper draws on theory, in class lectures and the personal experiences gained from working with women who have encountered domestic violence and are currently sheltered. For some groups of women in Canada, experiences of discrimination, racism, poverty, and social and geographic isolation create additional barriers. These women often must deal not only with the consequences of being abused but also with the effects of their marginalized position in society, and the reality of limited services. A therapist working in this environment should be aware of the lack of adequate community resources, and the prejudice the client is more likely to have experienced in the “ system ”. This lack of external resources means the therapist may need to reconceptualize their role, shifting from "one of many" providers to being the primary or even only point of intervention for sheltered clients. When dealing with this population the most important role for any therapist is to allow for an intervention that offers choice, something these women have been denied as part of their traumatic experience.

It is unclear how many of these women suffering from abuse trauma seek and accept therapeutic aid or even have access to psychotherapeutic assistance that might provide relief. It is also questionable if any psychological assistance can be successful given that treatment protocols for trauma and PTSD typically require the establishment of a safe and reassuring environment, conditions that are difficult to meet within the context of a shelter. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1943), for instance, claims that treatment for psychological problems can hardly be addressed as long as the basic needs of nutrition and safety are pressing.

In traditional treatment, individual therapy for victims of domestic violence begins with a primary focus on safety, particularly if the woman is coming from an abusive relationship. In addition to assessing the danger, in many shelters it is also the role of the therapist together with the client to develop a safety plan which contains a strategy for how to keep away from a dangerous situation. Shelters provide an important resource for abused women in that they offer emergency shelter, support, and access to community resources that can aid in establishing long-term safety for women and their children. The metaphor of “ therapist as host” can shape therapeutic alliance with the victims because it ascribes a range of ways in which those seeking relief can be welcomed to the experience of therapy. Treating someone as a cherished guest addresses the power differential undisputable in a therapeutic relationship by elevating the status of a person who comes to consult the therapist. ( Jodi Aman, 2006 )

A woman's entry into a shelter may mean that she is no longer in immediate danger but safety still remains a concern. As such a woman may be ready to seek relief and that the longer-term goals of any necessary psychological treatment for the woman can be addressed. These goals include helping the woman identify the impact of abuse on her life and helping her work toward empowering herself. The treatment of survivors of chronic abuse presents many challenges, including complex diagnosis, 3

treatment staging, and...
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