Introduction: I feel that dealing with clients who are the survivors or current victims of abuse is the most intricate and sensitive subject I have studied. Emotional and physical abuse of children and adults can take place at any age, in any country or culture and at any level of society. Forms of abuse are massively varied and can be motivated by many factors including sexual gratification, control, fear or even love.
In addressing this issue I will try to give a definition of what I understand or perceive psychological abuse to be and then highlight as many ideas and ethical considerations as my word count will allow.
As abuse can be something that has the potential to affect an individual throughout their lives, I feel it is a subject that demands consideration, safe and ethical practice and a great deal of self awareness on behalf of the therapist in order to avoid actions that could prove counterproductive, invasive or even damaging (to the therapist’s life as well as the client’s). I feel that helping to facilitate change for a sufferer of abuse is an important role to play in a person’s life and could therefore have the potential to be both very rewarding and also extremely draining for a therapist if the appropriate considerations are not met.
Kieran O’Hagan (2006) describes psychological abuse as; “the sustained, repetitive, inappropriate behaviour that damages or substantially reduces the creative and developmental potential of mental faculties and mental processes. These faculties and processes include: intelligence, memory, recognition, imagination, attention, perception and a developing moral sense. Psychological abuse impedes and impairs the child’s developing capacity to understand and manage his or her environment, to grow in self confidence and influence within that environment”. (pg55) Although this statement is written from the perspective of childcare and social work and does therefore not take all forms of abuse into account, I feel it powerfully displays the damaging effects that a history of abuse can have.
I feel that physical or sexual violence will be the most common scenarios to be brought to mind at the mention of the word abuse for many people; however abuse can take place in many non physical ways also. Abuse can take the form of control, intimidation, insulting and belittling, neglect and many other ways that are not violent in the conventional sense of the word.
I feel that although there is a clear distinction between physical and non-physical abuse, both forms will affect an individual on an emotional level and are therefore psychological in nature. I feel that there are other factors surrounding some forms of physical or sexual violence that tie them further together with the category of psychological abuse. For example; social implications and taboos which may allow abuse to go ahead unreported or undetected, threats which an abuser of a child may use to silence his or her victim, shame or fear at the thought of other’s reactions to abuse or any denial or other defences that an abused individual may employ to cope with their experience.
In summary I am writing this essay from the perspective that psychological abuse includes both emotional and physical forms of abuse yet by including all forms of abuse under one category I am in no way trying to simplify the subject or attach less importance to one or the other. In doing research for this essay I have found myself feeling that many aspects discussed concerning sexual abuse may be applicable to emotional abuse and vice versa. For example; if I quote a passage that is written about sexual abuse it is usually because I feel it could be applicable to emotional abuse also. One such subject where I feel this is particularly present is in the area of social implications surrounding abuse cases.
In a time where...