University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Therapeutic Holding Spaces: a response to young people experiencing trauma through community displacement

Bevan, Joy (2021) Therapeutic Holding Spaces: a response to young people experiencing trauma through community displacement. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

Text (PhD Thesis)
Therapeutic Holding Spaces Thesis Submission J Bevan 31 12 21.pdf - Submitted Version

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This PhD seeks to define how community professionals create trauma-informed listening spaces as a
form of therapeutic groupwork for young people experiencing family and community displacement.
My research connects with an emergent debate about how social work and allied community
therapists respond to young people who experience physical or psychological displacement due to
socio-political violence in their communities. It is a heuristic inquiry; exploring how ‘essence and
meaning’ (Moustakas, 1990) in relational forms of therapeutic response address the psychological
aspects of dissonance and restore composure.

Acknowledging the heritage of social work as a profession in response to family and community
conflict, I sought to define contemporary forms of psycho-social therapy used with young people in
times of deep crisis. I held the premise that this type of disturbance is raw and unchartered requiring
precise therapeutic approach. My research suggests the ‘essence’ of social work strives to rebuild
the person’s sense of self in the face of social, economic and political conflict by drawing them back
into the circle of humanity. My research vision was the ancient standing stones, representative of
indigenous expression of community speaking into the past, the present and the future of the
memory of sacred space and belonging. I believe this formation is echoed in the therapeutic
groupwork circle used across generations and cultures as a form of inter-relational space and

In my research, I elevate the focus on the young person’s spirit as the primary point of intervention,
developing understanding of their reaction to the notion of the therapeutic circle as a
transformative formation with potential to combat the sense of disconnection they carry. This shifts
the traditional focus of service formation on the ’displaced child’ to a more holistic circumference
which acknowledges the eco and human environment comprising natural energies of nurture and
regeneration. Prioritising psycho-social and holistic responses within social work practice, my
research develops conceptual understandings of these approaches in response to forms of trauma
which cause ‘disrupted harmony’ of body, mind and spirit (Heron, 1998).

Empirical evidence in my thesis is drawn from the formation of a ‘therapeutic circle of inquiry’
(Heron, 1998) developed in a youth and community project in Hebron, Palestine supporting young
people who experience displacement in circumstances of enduring community siege. The project
supports my research definition of the nature of transcultural practice formations in forms of
contemporary community therapeutic relief. My discovery is that the therapeutic circle, when
achieving a sort of ‘mutually enabling balance’ (Heron, 1998) allows young people to ‘restory’
(Adams et al., 2005) the experience of trauma within their own framework of discovery. In the
moment of relationship, all is open and new and the therapist’s skill is to uncode the imposed and
release the spirit within.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University’s requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Worcester.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: therapeutic social work, youth trauma, heuristic action research, participatory action research, conflict therapy, holistic community therapy
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Nursing and Midwifery
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2022 12:03
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2022 12:03

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