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The development and evaluation of a culturally affirmative counselling model for deaf clients in Australia

By Louise Ellen Munro


In Australia, there is only one, newly established, dedicated mental health service catering specifically for the signing *Deaf community. It is staffed by four part-time hearing professionals and based in Brisbane. There are currently no Deaf psychologists or psychiatrists and there is no valid or reliable empirical evidence on outcomes for Deaf people accessing specialised or mainstream mental health services. Further compounding these issues, is the fact that there are no sign language versions of the most common standardised mental health or psychological instruments available to clinicians in Australia. Contemporary counselling literature is acknowledging the role of the therapeutic alliance and the impact of 'common factors' on therapeutic outcomes. However, these issues are complicated by the relationship between the Deaf client and the hearing therapist being a cross-cultural exchange. The disability model of deafness is contentious and few professionals in Australia have the requisite knowledge and understanding of deafness from a cultural perspective to attend to the therapeutic relationship with this in mind. Consequently, Deaf people are severely disadvantaged by the current lack of services, resources and skilled professionals in the field of deafness and psychology in this country. The primary aim of the following program of research has been to propose a model for culturally affirmative service delivery and to provide clinicians with tools to evaluate the effect of their therapeutic work with Deaf people seeking mental health treatment. The research document is presented as a thesis by publication and comprises four specific objectives formulated in response to the lack of existing services and resources. The first objective was to explore the use of social constructionist counselling techniques and a reflecting team with Deaf clients, hearing therapists and an interpreter. Following the establishment of a pilot counselling clinic, indepth semi-structured interviews were conducted with two long-term clients following the one year pilot of this service. These interviews generated recommendations for the development of a new 'enriched' model of counselling to be implemented and evaluated in later stages of the research program. The second objective was to identify appropriate psychometric measures that could be translated into Australian Sign Language (Auslan) for research into efficacy, effectiveness and counselling outcomes. Two instruments were identified as potentially suitable; the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS), a measure of global functioning, and the Session Rating Scale (SRS), a measure of therapeutic alliance. A specialised team of bi-lingual and bi-cultural interpreters, native signers and the primary researcher for this thesis, produced the ORS-Auslan and the SRS-Auslan in DVD format, using the translation and back-translation process. The third objective was to establish the validity and reliability of these new Auslan measures based on normative data from the Deaf community. Data from the ORS-Auslan was collected from one clinical and one non-clinical sample of Deaf people. Statistical analyses revealed that the ORS-Auslan is reliable, valid and adequately distinguishes between clinical and non-clinical presentations. Furthermore, construct validity has been established using a yet to be validated sign language version of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 items (DASS-21), providing a platform for further research using the DASS-21 with Deaf people. The fourth objective was to evaluate counselling outcomes following the implementation of an enriched counselling service, based on the findings generated by the first objective, and using the newly translated Auslan measures. A second university counselling clinic was established and implemented over the course of one year. Practice-based evidence guided the research and the ORS-Auslan and the SRS-Auslan were administered at every session and provided outcome data on Deaf clients' global functioning. Data from six clients over the course of ten months indicated that this culturally affirmative model was an effective approach for these six clients. This is the first time that outcome data have been collected in Australia using valid and reliable Auslan measures to establish preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of any therapeutic intervention for clinical work with adult, signing Deaf clients. The research generated by this thesis contributes theoretical knowledge, professional development and practical resources that can be used by a variety of mental health clinicians in the context of mental health service delivery to Deaf clients in Australia

Topics: Auslan, Australia, counselling, culturally affirmative, deaf culture, therapy, mental health, outcomes, effectiveness, sign language, social constructionist, translation
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2010
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