Counsellors' Experiences of Working With Learning Disabled People Who Have Been Sexually Abused: A Thematic Analysis

Chand, Snehaa
Payne, Deborah
Feather, Jacqueline
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The study aimed to explore counsellors’ experiences of working with clients who had learning-disabilities and had been sexually abused. This qualitative study assisted in identifying the issues raised for the participating counsellors when working with such people. Obtaining information from counsellors may further assist in identifying future social developments such as increasing awareness and minimising exclusion, discrimination and prejudice towards learning-disabled people who have been sexually abused. This study used a qualitative descriptive design under the post-positivist paradigm. The participants were recruited within the Auckland region, through counselling and/or disability health services such as the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) that provide counselling and therapy for sexually abused learning-disabled people. Counsellors or practitioners (which include psychologists, psychotherapists and therapists) who identified as having clients or learning-disabled persons who have been sexually abused, took part in a semi-structured interviews which explored their experiences of providing their services. The interviews were conducted face-to-face. Through the process, three participants (practitioners) who had previously or are currently working with sexually abused learning-disabled people, were interviewed. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Through the analysis, a key theme of ‘Applying practice’ was developed with three sub-themes. These were: accessing therapy, using appropriate therapies and ensuring follow-ups. The findings identify how counselling practice and services may assist learning-disabled people who have been sexually abused. This included the recognition of issues relating to learning-disabled individuals as being highly vulnerable, having limited educational support, particularly sexual education. Another issue was the identification of sexual abuse having occurred. Furthermore, there is a lack of prevention strategies in eliminating sexual abuse for learning-disabled people. This research might help to influence New Zealand counsellors’ and their practice methods when dealing with their clients who have a learning-disabilities. As mentioned earlier, this study might influence future development for learning-disabled people.

Counsellors , Learning disabled , Sexual abuse , Qualitative research , Post-positivistic paradigm , Qualitative descriptive
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