Resilience and recovery from trauma among Aboriginal help seeking clients in an urban Aboriginal community controlled organisation
AuthorGee, Graham John
AffiliationMelbourne School of Psychological Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required
© 2016 Dr. Graham John Gee
This thesis explores aspects of historical loss, contemporary trauma, and resilience and recovery outcomes among Aboriginal help-seeking clients from the Family Counseling Services of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne, Australia. In the first study, Aboriginal health professionals participated in focus groups and a 60-item Aboriginal Resilience and Recovery Questionnaire was developed. The results of a principal components analysis suggested the retention of two components that represent personal strengths and relational-cultural strengths. These two sub-scales and their composite scores (referred to as global strengths) were used in the subsequent study. In the second study, 81 Aboriginal clients from the Family Counseling Services participated in structured interviews that included self-report measures of historical loss, trauma exposure, stressful life events, posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, drug and alcohol use, empowerment, resilience as coping with stress, and personal, relational-cultural and global strengths. Levels of trauma exposure were high among participants, and commonly endorsed symptoms of distress included those consistent with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Complex PTSD and cultural idioms of distress as documented in the Aboriginal Australian Version of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (AAVHTQ). Forty per cent of the participants in the study were classified as PTSD symptomatic according to the AAVHTQ. Descriptive statistics showed that Aboriginal clients participating in the second study reported poorer outcomes across a range of social determinants and adversities in comparison to other Aboriginal Victorians in the general population. Two generations of child removal from one’s natural family, historical loss, experiences of racism, and not having access to funds for basic living expenses were all associated with greater trauma symptoms severity. Conversely, personal and relational-cultural strengths, and global strengths, were associated with lower trauma and depression symptom severity, and drug and alcohol use. Participants who reported experiencing more healing from past trauma also reported higher scores on subscales related to managing intense emotions, experiencing positive emotions, strong relationships (attachment), feeling safe, resilience as coping with stress, personal and relational-cultural strengths, and global strengths. Regression analyses revealed that trauma exposure, stressful life events,resilience as coping with stress, personal and relational-cultural strengths, and global strengths, were all important predictors of posttraumatic stress symptom severity. Stressful life events were found to partially mediate the relationship between trauma exposure and trauma symptom severity. When entered together as independent variables, only personal strengths had a main effect on trauma symptom severity, whereas relation-cultural strengths had a moderating effect on the relationship between trauma exposure and trauma symptom severity. Also, global strengths were found to moderate the relationship between trauma exposure and trauma symptom severity. When examining community and cultural-based subscales as predictors, only community opportunity and communal mastery were found to predict trauma symptom severity. Finally, post-hoc analyses revealed that global strengths also moderated the relationship between historical loss and trauma symptom severity, while cultural practices were found to be a predictor of empowerment, with self-esteem partially mediating the relationship between cultural practices and empowerment. Taken together, findings from the second study indicate a range of important risk and protective factors that help to differentiate post trauma outcomes among Aboriginal help-seeking clients attending the Family Counseling Services. Some of these factors are consistent with the PTSD and Complex PTSD recovery literature. Others represent unique socio-historical and cultural-resilience based factors that are particularly salient for Aboriginal Victorians. The Aboriginal Resilience and Recovery Questionnaire shows promise as a measure that can be used by Aboriginal counseling services across Australia to better assess the extent to which its therapeutic practices and programs support Aboriginal help-seeking clients in increasing their strengths and resources, and experiencing healing and trauma recovery outcomes.
Keywordsresilience; recovery; trauma; Aboriginal; community controlled health organisation
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References