A qualitative study exploring the experience of psychotherapists working with birth trauma

  • Elizabeth Gough Department of Psychology, Mediterranean College-University of Derby, Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • Vaitsa Giannouli | giannouliv@hotmail.com Department of Psychology, Mediterranean College-University of Derby, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Abstract

As many as 45% of women experience birth trauma. Psychotherapists’ knowledgeable insights are largely absent in literature, and therefore the objective of this research is to gain a comprehensive understanding of how psychotherapists in the UK experience the therapeutic process when working with women who have experienced a traumatic birth. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was employed to examine the data coming from psychotherapists working with birth trauma. Three ostensible areas of focus were revealed: i) Hearing the story: discovering the altered-self, ii) Working with the story: enabling redemption of the altered-self, and iii) Professional challenges and the wider story: advocating for the altered-self. Birth trauma commonly leads to an altered sense of self, intertwined with a perception of loss regarding the birth experience and autonomy. Working with the client’s birth story, to enable redemption and restore reasoning, is integral to the therapeutic process. Stabilisation and consideration of the presence of the baby are also significant. Integrating approaches produces positive outcomes. There is a purported gap in NHS services, professionals either lacking knowledge and misdiagnosing, or being limited by the emphasis placed on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. For the therapeutic process consider: the sense of loss associated with the birth; working with the client’s birth story to enable redemption and restore reasoning; the impact of the presence of the baby and the need for stabilisation; birth trauma as unique. For frontline health professionals: implementing existing screening protocols and undergoing training to recognise birth trauma may reduce misdiagnosis.

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Published
2021-01-14
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Keywords:
Birth trauma; psychotherapist; subjective birth experience; Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)
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How to Cite
Gough, E., & Giannouli, V. (2021). A qualitative study exploring the experience of psychotherapists working with birth trauma. Health Psychology Research, 8(3). https://doi.org/10.4081/hpr.2020.9178