Community counsellors' experiences of trauma and resilience in a low-income community

Benjamin, Arlene (2014-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Violence is considered a global mental health problem. The rate of violence in South Africa is amongst the highest in the world and much of this violence is disproportionately skewed towards the poorer and historically disadvantaged communities. Low-income communities continue to bear the brunt of historical legacies of violence which are perpetuated through current ongoing cycles of interpersonal and community violence. While much has been documented about trauma and resilience in environments where the violence or traumatic event has ceased, there is a dearth of literature conceptualising trauma and resilience in contexts where the violence persists. Furthermore, even fewer studies have captured how trauma and resilience are conceptualised from the perspectives of the voices who experience this violence daily. The social constructionist framework of this study aims to contribute to the knowledge of how trauma and resilience is constructed by those who experience ongoing violence, and whether resilience and healing does occur in an environment of continuous traumatic stress. The voices of the participants of the study provide an additional perspective from that of community-based counsellors. Their dual experience of living and working in a violent community gives a rich insight into the relationship between trauma and resilience. The study is located in Hanover Park, a low-income community, notorious for its high levels of community violence. The participants are community-based counsellors who volunteer at Organisation X, a community-based ecological intervention that has been developed in response to addressing the cyclical impacts of ongoing violence and continuous trauma. The research design is a purposive in-depth case study of eighteen counsellors, investigating the narratives of their lives within its real-life context. Follow-up focus groups held with the counsellors were guided by ideas and practices of narrative theory. The narratives were analysed using thematic content and experience-centred form analysis. Multi-level themes related to trauma and resilience were constructed by the participants. It was revealed that the trauma effects related to systemic ongoing violence are viewed as maladaptive features of negative resilience. At the same time positive resilience which promotes healing, empowerment and transformation is possible despite negative and violent environments. The perspectives of community counsellors which offer critically important insight into their experience of the context of violence, and the complex interconnecting of individual, interpersonal and social aspects of trauma and healing in disadvantaged communities, could also inform future evidence-based interventions, provide alternate paradigms within which mental health professionals could position themselves to engage in issues of social justice and psychosocial health.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geweld word wêreldwyd as 'n geestesgesondheidsprobleem beskou. Die voorkoms van geweld in Suid-Afrika, is tans een van die hoogstes in die wêreld en die meeste van hierdie geweld neig om veral die armer en histories benadeelde gemeenskappe negatief te raak. Gemeenskappe in die laer inkomstegroepe is dus die mense wat die spit afbyt, omdat hierdie historiese nalatenskap van geweld deur die huidige voortdurende kringloop van interpersoonlike en gemeenskapsgeweld voortleef. Alhoewel daar alreeds baie dokumentêre bewyse bestaan oor trauma en veerkragtigheid in omgewings waar geweld of traumatiese gebeure beëindig is, is daar 'n gebrek aan literatuur wat trauma en veerkragtigheid vasvang waar geweld die orde van die dag is. Daar is verder nog minder studies wat vaslê hoe trauma en veerkragtigheid uit die oogpunt van die betrokkenes wat geweld daagliks ervaar, gekonseptualiseer word. Die sosiale konstruksionisme raamwerk van hierdie studie beoog om 'n bydrae te lewer oor hoe , indien wel, trauma en genesing beleef word deur diegene wat voortdurende geweld ervaar in 'n omgewing waar aanhoudende traumatiese stres voorkom. Die deelnemers aan hierdie studie verskaf 'n addisionele perspektief van die van gemeenskapsberaders. Hul tweeledige ervaring van leef en werk in 'n gewelddadige gemeenskap verskaf 'n dieper insig in die verhouding tussen trauma en veerkragtigheid. Die buurt waar die studie gedoen is, is Hanover-park - 'n lae inkomste gemeenskap wat berug is vir hoe vlakke van gemeenskapsgeweld. Die deelnemers is beraders uit die gemeenskap wat vrywillige werk doen by Organisasie X - 'n gemeenskapsgebaseerde ekologiese intervensie wat ontwikkel is om die sikliese impak van voortdurende geweld en trauma te verminder. Die navorsingstudie is 'n doelgerigte diepgaande gevallestudie van agtien beraders wat hul lewensverhale binne die werklike konteks ondersoek. Die beraders het die opvolg fokus-groepe gelei deur idees en die narratiewe teorie in die praktyk toe te pas. Die vertellings is geanaliseer deur gebruik te maak van die tematiese inhoud en 'n ervarings-gesentreerde analitiese formaat. Veelvlakkige temas wat verband hou met trauma en veerkragtigheid is deur die deelnemers saamgestel. Dit het aan die lig gebring dat die effek van trauma wat verband hou met voortdurende sistemiese geweld geag word as wanaangepaste kenmerke van negatiewe veerkragtigheid. Terselfdertyd is die positiewe veerkragtigheid wat genesing, bemagtiging en verandering evorder moontlik, ten spyte van negatiewe en gewelddadige omgewings. Die vooruitsigte van die gemeenskapsberaders wat belangrike en kritiese insig in hul ervarings binne geweldsverband bied, die ingewikkelde verbondenheid van die indiwiduele, interpersoonlike en sosiale aspekte van trauma en genesing in benadeelde gemeenskappe kan insiggewend wees vir toekomstige ingryping. Dit kan alternatiewe modelle voorsien waarvolgens beroepslui in die geestesgesondheidveld hulself kan inrig om kwessies van sosiale geregtigheid en psigo-sosiale gesondheids-toestande aan te spreek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86553
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