Exploring the experiences of counsellors during a trauma counselling training programme
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Exposure of employees to traumatic experiences in the workplace is a reality that many organisations face. Although not every person exposed to a traumatic experience will necessarily develop post-traumatic stress, the workplace still has a responsibility to assist individuals to deal with psychological reactions after a traumatic experience. The South African Police Service (SAPS) is one such organisation, where employees run a particularly high risk of being exposed to traumatic experiences while performing their tasks. In order to help employees of the SAPS to debrief their trauma, trauma counsellors are necessary. Within the SAPS, trauma counsellors are trained in an adapted version of Mitchell’s Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) model, with the underlying focus to establish a sense of safety for the police official. The trauma counsellors in the SAPS are trained by means of an experiential learning experience, where journaling is utilised to capture personal experiences during the training. The objective of the study was therefore to explore the experience of counsellors during a trauma counselling training programme. A qualitative research design was utilised following a phenomenology approach. The social constructivism paradigm was also utilised in this research study. Trauma counsellors (N=12) in the SAPS were used as case study for this research, where a purposive homogeneous non-probability sampling technique was implemented. The journal entries made by the participants during the nine day training programme were used as a data collection method. Four categories were extracted from the data, namely, thoughts regarding trauma counsellor’s experiences, emotion experiences of counsellors, the impact of daily experiences on counsellors and the participants’ view on how their competence of efficiency would change in the future. The results showed that the training programme was an effective strategy to train the counsellors. The counsellors showed increased self-awareness and self-insight after the training. The participants gained insight and understanding of how police officials experience trauma. The findings showed that the participants felt empowered and more confident to assist police officials with their trauma recovery. In relation to their training, counsellors made recommendations for the future training of trauma counsellors within the SAPS. Finally, recommendations were made for future research as well as the implications of the study for the industrial psychology practise.
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