The (extra) ordinary experiences and practices of rural family therapists

2017-03-01T00:43:57Z (GMT) by Woodhouse, Annette Marie
This study aims to increase understanding and knowledge of Australian rural family therapists’ experiences of practice. Nationally and internationally there is limited research about family therapists who work in rural regions. Professional and academic knowledge primarily focuses on the deficiencies of rurality for therapists, such as feeling professionally isolated and having limited access to education and supervision. Despite these challenges, rural family therapists continue in their practices, sustaining themselves and those families and communities with which they work. Fourteen Australian rural family therapists collaborated in developing a research process to explore their experiences and practices of family therapy, with a particular focus on how they sustain themselves professionally. Influenced by social constructionist and feminist theories this qualitative study utilised a participatory action research strategy to co-construct stories with participants. Therapists from the New South Wales-Victorian border, Victorian and Tasmanian regions chose an ongoing focus group, a single small group interview or an individual interview. Participants’ individual stories were analysed as narratives to create the following overall themes which were linked to community connectedness: • Understandings of rurality and rural family therapy practices. • Experiences of transformation and change. • Witnessing rural resistance and resiliency. • Working with multiple relationships in rural communities. • Traversing across issues of cultural, racial and gender differences. Gritty narratives of participants’ persistence, and everyday resistances to dominant understandings of rurality emerged. Alternative and dominant understandings of rurality come to sit alongside each other, offering rural practitioners differing perspectives to guide their practices. Participants unearthed an understanding of rurality as deeply relational, a community connectedness which sustains them professionally within small rural communities. Overall this study found that rural family therapists’ experiences and practices were complex, diverse and specific to the localised contexts within which they lived and worked.