Narratives of hope : trauma and resilience in a low-income South African community
Thesis (DPhil (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
South Africans are often subjected to violence and trauma. However, many can tell stories that speak of resilience in the face of trauma. Against this background, this social constructionist study aims 1) to contribute to the growing body of knowledge of the consequences of trauma, as well as of resilience, in a low-income community in South Africa; and 2) to describe a narrative therapy approach to trauma - an approach that is thought to emphasise context, resilience, empowerment and ecological well-being. The study was set in the high-violence community of Lavender Hill, with participants being individuals or families exposed to violence. Interviews guided by ideas and practices of narrative therapy were used to gather data about trauma and resilience in this community. In an effort to establish how trauma and resilience were constructed by participants themselves, first and last interviews were analysed, using constructivist grounded theory. The areas of concern were: i) the daily impact of trauma on thoughts, emotions and behaviour; ii) the conflict between speaking out and staying silent; and iii) the impact of trauma on relationships with self, others and God. These became the main categories for the discussion of the consequences of trauma. Findings supported the notion that persons working with trauma survivors in South Africa should be aware of how complex, multi-layered and context-bound the consequences of trauma are when they design interventions. To reach the second aim of the study, the application of narrative therapy ideas and practices were described by focusing on five case studies. The case studies were discussed in relation to different notions of recovery and therapeutic change. Emphasis was placed on double-storied accounts of trauma that included attending to alternative, hope-inspiring stories of participants’ lives. It was shown that a narrative approach to therapy offers contextual and resilience-focused practices that are geared toward empowerment of individuals, families and communities. As such, the argument that narrative therapy is particularly relevant and appropriate in the context of a low-income South African community, was supported.