Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 27. Implications for social work

27.0 Implications for social work

In this chapter I will focus on the possible implication that in my opinion the findings in this study may have on social work as a helping profession where the goal is to support human prosperity. I start by discussing the importance of inclusion and giving the possibility for a positive self-evaluation. On the background from the information given by the informants, I have constructed figure 4 which illustrates a model of social work which in my opinion seems to be used at the Incest Centre in Vestfold. I will thereafter discuss the importance of becoming oneself, or as several of the informants have described as taking back oneself, in order to overcome ones shame. I also discuss the importance of using ones lived life in the Incest Centre in Vestfold and chose to call this form for knowledge for practical wisdom. Being able to develop this ability implies self knowledge, and this is discussed after practical wisdom. Finally in this chapter, I discuss the importance of respect and recognition. In my opinion, these factors are shown at the Incest Centre in Vestfold as fundamental for the social work they carry out in helping others in the healing process of shame. I conclude this chapter with figure 5, which I have constructed using the previous four figures to create an overall picture illustrating how the struggle for recognition set forth by Honneth (1996) can be used shame to describe how shame develops and how it may be healed through social work within the context of the Incest Centre in Vestfold.

Eight of the participants were employed at the Incest Centre in Vestfold and their work consisted first and foremost of counselling those asking for help because of sexual abuse. Six of these eight participants were victims of sexual abuse as children, one of them had a husband who had sexually abused their daughter and one had no personal experience of sexual abuse. Having personal experience of sexual abuse is by some considered to be an advantage for those who work counselling other victims, but it is not a condition of employment. All employees at the Incest Centre in Vestfold, who have been sexually abused, must have worked through their own abuse to the extent of clarifying their relation to it. Both men and women can be employed. People who are sexual offenders are not permitted to work at the Centre. Sexual offenders who ask for help at the centre are given one conversation and referred to other helping institutions which focus on helping offenders.

The users are primarily children and adults who have been the victims of sexual abuse and their relatives. Most people contact the Centre by telephone, and the lines are open 24 hours a day, but many others visit the Centre in person for a consultation. There are always two counsellors on duty. In special cases, users are allowed to live at the Centre for a short period of time.

11 of the participants were users of the Incest Centre in Vestfold, all of whom were victims of childhood sexual abuse, except one woman who claims that her memory of the abuse is blurred and that she is uncertain about the reality of her memories. All of these participants have worked through the trauma of their abuse for years and were considered strong enough and courageous enough to go through with the interviews by the leaders of the Centre.

It seems to be important in the process of healing shame to have the courage to face one’s past and share one’s life stories with others. Ruth says that one must dare to re-think things that have happened in the past. Having the possibility to do so might be felt like standing on a precipice overlooking a great void. One does not know what the future will be like when the shame, guilt and responsibility for what happened disappear. She concludes that it’s a question of being courageous enough.

Ruth_1:           You have to place shame, responsibility and guilt where they belong, and dare to think that right now you’re standing at a crossroad where it’s possible to choose a completely different way of thinking. You don’t know how you’re supposed to think or what it will be like when you no longer have to bear the shame, guilt and responsibility for what happened. You don’t know about any of this. It’s a question of having enough courage.

Skårderud (2001) also takes up the subject of courage in healing shame and argues that courage means daring to share. It is important to understand that courage is not a predefined quality; it is something that evolves through dialogical emotional work. Healing shame involves developing a relationship which gives one the courage to expose one’s inner self to the other. In the following chapter I will focus on the process of healing shame, and investigate what the participants have to say about giving and receiving help.

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