Hurting the healers: stalking in the mental health professions

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
A growing body of research suggests that mental health professionals (MHPs) are more likely to be victims of stalking than are members of the general public, yet less likely to report their victimization to police. The present study attempted to increase the evidence base on stalking of MHPs by surveying the experiences of Registered Clinical Counsellors in British Columbia, Canada. All members of the provincial professional association for Registered Clinical Counsellors were contacted, and N = 346 completed an on-line survey (response rate = 17%). The survey included questions to determine the prevalence and nature of stalking victimization, focusing on stalking that occurred in the context of the respondents’ work as MHPs; the impact of the stalking and the strategies respondents used to cope with it; and respondents’ knowledge of and attitudes toward stalking. Results indicated that many respondents had experienced individual stalking-related behaviours. The lifetime prevalence of stalking victimization perpetrated by clients was 7% (SE = 1%), a rate consistent with that found in other types of MHPs and in other countries. The characteristics of stalking perpetrators were similar to those reported in previous research. Victims often had problems coping with victimization due to limited knowledge about the phenomenon of stalking, engaging in behaviour that is generally considered ineffective or even counter-productive when responding to stalking, and inadequate access to external resources. Overall, about half of respondents were unaware that MHPs were at increased risk for stalking victimization and many endorsed the view that stalking victimization is caused by poor clinical skills. The implications of these findings for the prevention of and responses to the stalking victimization of MHPs by clients are discussed.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Hart, Stephen
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