Experiences of Complaints about Counselling, Psychotherapy and Casework: Voicing the Need for Accountability and Care
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The original contribution to knowledge that this thesis provides is Australian qualitative data about experiences of complaints regarding the practices of practitioners providing counselling, psychotherapy and casework. At present, only psychologists and psychiatrists providing such ‘talking cures’ are required in Australia to be registered and accountable by law, whereas a range of other occupations such as counsellors, psychotherapists, and social workers may choose whether or not they become a member of, and therefore accountable to, a voluntary professional association. Findings from this research are aimed at increasing knowledge about the dynamics associated with complaints, as well as a range of harmful and problematic practices that lead to complaints. This research project was designed to address gaps in previous research which tended to focus on harm to clients due to sexual boundary violations as well as on patterns in complaint statistics. Qualitative data which voiced the lived experience needed to be sought and power dynamics needed to be made more visible. Therefore feminist theory and phenomenology were chosen to provide the conceptual framework for the methodology. Qualitative interviews occurred with twenty-two participants who were recruited in three groups: third party complainants; respondent practitioners; and complaint managers. Data across all participant groups was thematically analysed and themes emerged in three areas: impact, power and needs associated with experiences of complaints. Within the cases discussed by participants, there was evidence of significant psychological trauma, barriers to reporting, a lack of ownership or management of power, and systemic failures in providing accountability and care. Findings provided rich data for discussion in terms of implications for legislation and policy, education and public awareness, best practice in preventing and responding to complaints, and areas for further research.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Human Services and Social Work
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