Practitioners' Experience of Former World War Two Child Evacuees in Therapy: A Qualitative Study
Aims: The Second World War had a dramatic impact on the lives of those who lived through it (Davies, 1997) and its long-term impact continues for older people whose formative life experiences were affected by the process of Britain‟s wartime child evacuation scheme (Foster et al., 2003). Despite the place in the national psyche that remembrance of the World Wars holds there is very little literature or psychological research investigating the long-term effects of evacuation. There have been some previous quantitative studies using questionnaires to explore the effects of evacuation (e.g. Rusby, 2008, Foster et al., 2003, Waugh et al., 2007). There has also been one qualitative study exploring evacuees' experience of evacuation (Sturgeon-Clegg, Dpsych unpublished thesis). However, with an increasing number of former evacuees now becoming eligible for older people's services and being seen by mental health practitioners in specialist older people's services, this study is the first to ask psychologists who have worked with former evacuees about their experience of the therapy and whether they consider there is a long-term impact of evacuation. Method: Six psychologists took part in one-to-one, face-to-face interviews to investigate their experiences of working with evacuated clients whether they thought there had been a long-term impact of the evacuation on former evacuees. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith et al., 2009) methodology was used to analyse the data. Each interview was analysed individually before cross analysis. Results: The research produced three prominent themes related to the way psychologists understood the therapy with former evacuees. The first theme was the different voices around evacuation in the therapy room and how these different voices (the therapist's, the former evacuee's and dominate discourses) influenced participants' understanding of the evacuation experience. The second theme around "being genuine" explored psychologists' beliefs about their role and the role of therapy for former evacuees. The third theme was an awareness of death in the therapy with former evacuees and the impact this had on the therapeutic relationship. Implications: The main implications identified were: the need for psychologists working with former evacuees to have an understanding of evacuation and knowledge of the research on the long-term impact of evacuation on former evacuees. The importance of supporting psychologists working with former evacuees around the complex task of making sense of the relationship issues in the therapeutic relationship. Finally, participants in the study stressed the importance of developing a trusting, non-judging environment to encourage psychologists to process their response to the former evacuees they worked with.