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Qualitative Exploration Through Oral Interviews: Understanding Tertiary Trauma in Counseling Supervisors

By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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In 2014, I began my PhD research to examine, for the first time, how trauma manifested in supervisors working in the counseling profession. Previous studies had explored the background of how trauma transferred from client to counselors, manifesting as vicarious or secondary trauma. Those studies also identified that one of the primary means for counselors to prevent vicarious trauma was to seek out supervision from a counseling supervisor. My study looked at the counseling supervisor and the pathway trauma travels from the client, to the counselor, and then to the counseling supervisor. But my study sought to gain this knowledge and understanding from the counseling supervisors’ perspective. A working definition of tertiary trauma did not exist in the counseling literature unlike other professions. I discovered through the literature review that the term vicarious trauma also at one point did not exist in the counseling profession, the terminology being adapted for the understanding of a phenomenon from other professions. This case study provides an account of a 2-year-long PhD project that sought to take a term used by other professions and adapt it to identify a phenomenon that I believed existed among counseling supervisors. The case sheds light on particular challenges in phenomenological research and using oral interviews to gather data, and the process of analyzing a collective perception of a phenomenon. Thinking about such challenges strengthens the understanding and purpose of phenomenological research, and being able to allow a qualitative research design to grow and change throughout the study.

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Qualitative interviewing

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