Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma


Shona has extensive training and experience working with adult survivors of complex trauma, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect. This includes; Emotion Focused Therapy for Trauma, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Psychodrama, and Neuroscience presented by Bessel van der Kolk, Daniel Siegal and Pieter Rossouw. She has been working in private practice since 2006.

She has a Doctorate (PhD) at Swinburne University of Technology titled "What is it about the therapeutic alliance that enables trust with adult survivors of childhood abuse"

Her Doctorate explored the relationship between client and therapist while working through childhood trauma issues. Having had disrupted trust in early childhood years by significant attachment figures, means that survivors of childhood trauma frequently experience difficulties in trust in counselling relationships, with high dropout rates. This empirically based qualitative research project involved interviewing both experienced psychologists and complex trauma clients, who have worked through issues of childhood trauma (sexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect) during therapy. Semi-structured interview questions were related to the therapeutic relationship.

Results of the research indicate that the most important factors in the therapeutic relationship when working with childhood trauma are; deep caring and closeness, acceptance and non-judgment, humanness and professionalism, therapist presence with intense emotion, therapist instilling responsibility with client, and therapist managing avoidance with client. Furthermore clear and consistent boundaries, therapist availability and structure with flexibility in and outside sessions was considered important. Also an absence of pressure to achieve results or a sense of being rushed by the therapist was essential. The therapist needed to be grounded with clear separation of therapist self and client.

The Doctorate yielded important information that deepens understanding and knowledge of the relationship between client and practitioner. The outcomes clarify and strengthen strategies and interventions applicable to practitioners and deepens alliance theories, relevant across various psychotherapeutic orientations.