Graduation Year: 2013
Research Topic: The dynamics of shame: navigating professional complexities when counselling in alcohol and other drug settings
Supervisors: A/Prof Christy Newman, A/Prof Kylie Valentine
Rebecca's research spans the fields of healthcare provision, AOD treatment models, domestic violence programs, and therapeutic relationship dynamics. She has worked on projects that aim to improve healthcare provision for people living with HIV, and prevention strategies for hepatitis C risk factors. Alongside her work at CSRH, she has worked for many years as a counsellor and group worker in a community-based setting, and is currently the Senior Research Officer at Relationships Australia NSW.
This qualitative study gathered the professional accounts of seventeen counsellors and other frontline workers in order to gain new understandings of the ways in which the therapeutic relationship is affected by shame in the context of alcohol and other drug (AOD) settings. Three major insights were developed through this research. The first is that shame is intimately entangled with the labelling of problematic AOD-use behaviour. The second is that shame, guilt and stigma are often conflated in AOD counselling. The third insight is that the dynamics of shame create significant workforce issues for AOD counselling professionals. This thesis outlines and discusses these dilemmas and, in doing so, contributes to what is known about counselling practice in AOD settings, especially professional perceptions and experiences of the dynamics between shame and drug use in those settings. New practice implications are articulated for counsellors working with clients around shame issues, and for the more appropriate development and navigation of practice and policy guidelines for counselling in alcohol and other drug settings.