Focusing-oriented therapy: experiential journeys in resolving the resultant shame of childhood sexual abuse
LE3 .A278 2019
Doctor of Philosophy
This study explores the experiences of three women survivors of sexual abuse as they participate in focusing-oriented therapy to resolve the resultant shame of childhood sexual abuse. The exploration addresses the questions: How is focusing-oriented therapy experienced by women who are contending with an injury that is physical, emotional, and spiritual? How might survivors address the shame they identify as hindering their well-being? How does the experience of telling their stories of shame through focusing-oriented therapy affect participants’ sense of self? The research was informed by a narrative inquiry methodology and utilized qualitative in-depth conversations to gather participants’ stories. Data was interrogated through a narrative analysis using a case study approach. A feminist lens allowed the women’s experiences to be viewed as part of a gendered social system whereby the perpetration of sexual abuse against women is enabled and the resultant injury often hidden and untreated. Focusing-oriented therapy as a holistic somatic intervention appears to offer survivors a promising opportunity for healing. Four synergistic components of focusing-oriented therapy proved to be most influential in the participants’ experience of positive change: a care-focused therapeutic alliance, accessing the body’s somatic wisdom, clearing a holistic space (discernment of an inherent inner resource), and ittification (un-fusing shameand self). The findings from this study provide practical insight that could enhance the long-term effectiveness of clinical treatment for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
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