Psychotherapy for Children with Encopresis: A Hermeneutic Literature Review.

Sriram, Smrithi
Clarke, Victoria
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

Encopresis or faecal incontinence is a common medical condition among many children and can be a result of medical and/or psychological causes. As a trainee child and adolescent psychotherapist, I want to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional needs of encopretic children and their psychological internal world. The goal of this study is to explore various therapeutic approaches that can help support their emotional needs and answer the following research question: How can psychotherapy benefit children with encopresis?

Hermeneutics epistemology involves understanding the meaning of lived experiences for individuals and exploring how these experiences influence their engagement with the world through interpretation. In utilising hermeneutic phenomenology as my methodology and conducting a hermeneutic literature review, I hope to understand the subjective experiences of encopretic children and the reasoning behind the various psychotherapeutic approaches used to support them. The data for this study comes from existing literature on psychotherapy with encopretic children, including my reflections based on my understanding and interpretation of the literature. In reviewing the literature, three key themes emerged, denial, control and disruptions in attachment, as some of the common underlying distresses for encopretic children. The psychotherapist’s ability to build and work within the therapeutic relationship, remain attuned and move at the child’s pace, allow space for them to express themselves and work through underlying distresses, and work closely with parents to help them mentalise their child’s needs were some of the key findings across the themes. Analysing the literature offered insight on the reasoning and effectiveness of these therapeutic approaches. The findings can contribute to future research on effective psychotherapeutic interventions, as well as support and inform child psychotherapy students, child psychotherapists and other mental health professionals working with encopretic children.

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