Original Research

The experiences of clinical psychologists in treating traumatic stress at a tertiary psychiatric hospital in the Eastern Cape: A qualitative study

Kuriesha Munishvaran, Duane D. Booysen
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 28 | a1868 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v28i0.1868 | © 2022 Kuriesha Munishvaran, Duane D. Booysen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 January 2022 | Published: 01 August 2022

About the author(s)

Kuriesha Munishvaran, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Duane D. Booysen, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa


Background: Qualitative data on the experiences of treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a psychiatric setting in a low-resource context is sparse.

Aim: The authors aimed to explore the lived experiences of clinical psychologists who treat patients who are either trauma survivors or perpetrators in a psychiatric hospital.

Setting: A public psychiatric hospital in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Method: A total of six individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with three clinical psychologists. Data were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA).

Results: The analysis for each participant identified several significant themes, namely (1) support as a male person, (2) being appreciative, (3) difficult trauma narratives, (4) a mother and a psychologist and (5) fear and hopelessness.

Conclusion: Treating traumatic stress amongst clinical psychologists working in a public psychiatric hospital can lead to experiences of vicarious trauma and traumatic stress. In addition, the participants experienced an added danger in treating high-risk state patients, exposing psychologists to traumatic stress. Furthermore, psychologists recognised the influence of gender and race and its impact on their roles in their personal and professional lives as practitioners treating traumatic stress.


clinical psychologists; psychiatric hospital; patients; traumatic stress; vicarious trauma; secondary trauma; trauma narratives; vicarious post-traumatic growth; South Africa


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