• Barbara Wade Social worker in private practice and doctoral student, University of South Africa.
  • Rinie Schenck Social Work, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.



Exposure to trauma has always been part of human existence (Marsella, Friedman & Spain, 1996). Extreme stress has been depicted by authors throughout the ages. In Homer’s Odyssey (4 000 years ago) and Shakespeare’s Henry VI (1591), for example, portray post-traumatic stress reactions to war (Wade, 2009). In 1993 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defined trauma in the Third Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM III) as a catastrophic stressor that would evoke significant symptoms of stress in most people. Trauma was thought to be “a rare and overwhelming event, generally outside the range of usual human experiences” (APA, 2000:467). Events that fitted this definition of trauma included rape, assault, incarceration, military combat, accidents and domestic violence. After many debates about the concept of trauma, the definition was changed in the DSM IV to focus not on the event(cause) itself, but on the person’s response(effect) to the event or the symptoms the person showed after the event (APA, 2000; Wade, 2009). The APA acknowledged that people give different meanings to events and therefore not all seemingly traumatic events are experienced as traumatic by all people. The DSM IV constructed criteria or symptoms for the condition “post-traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD) to describe the condition in the following way: “The person experienced, witnessed or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self and others” (APA, 2000:467). This definition excludes other events that are not life threatening. The person’s symptoms, according the DSM IV, could include intense fear, helplessness or horror (APA, 2000:467). This would imply that events such as the destruction of one’s home, or a threat to life, would qualify as being traumatic, but divorce or illness would not qualify if physical threats were not present (Norris, 1992).


Download data is not yet available.


ABRAMS, L.S. 2010. Sampling “hard to reach” populations in qualitative research: the case of incarcerated youth. Qualitative Social Work, 9(4)536-550

ADAMS, R., DOMINELLI, L. & PAYNE, M. 2008. Social Work research for social justice. Hampshire: Palgrave.

ADDISON, R.B. 1999. A grounded hermeneutic editing approach. In: CRABTREE, B.F. & MILLER, W.L. (eds) Doing qualitative research (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

APA (AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION). 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed). Text Revision DSM IV – Tr. Published by the American Psychiatric Association. Washington. DC: 467-468.

BARON, R.A. & BYRNE, D. 2000. Social Psychology (9th ed). Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.

BEAULIEU, D. 2003. Eye movement integration therapy. Williston: Crown House Limited.

BEUSTER, J. 1997. Psychopathology from a traditional African perspective. Unisa Psychologia, 24(2):5-16.

BAUMEISTER, R.F. 1995. Self and identity: an introduction. In: TESSER, A. (ed) Advanced social Psychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

CASTILLO, R.J. 1997. Culture and mental illness: a client-centred approach. Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole.

CRESWELL J.W. 1998. Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

DENZIN, D. & LINCOLN, Y.S. 2003. The landscape of qualitative research: theories and issues. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

EARLE, N. 2008. Social work in social change: the profession and education of social workers in South Africa. HSRC. Research monograph.

FOSSEY, E., HARVEY, C., McDERMOTT, F. & DAVIDSON, L. 2002. Understanding and evaluating qualitative research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36:717-732.

FRIEDMAN, M.J. & MARSELLA, A.J. 1996. Post-traumatic stress disorder: an overview of the concept. In: MARSELLA, A.J., FRIEDMAN, M.J., GERRITY, E.T. & SCURFIELD, R.M. (eds) Ethno cultural aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder: issues, research and clinical applications. Washington: American Psychological Association.

FRIEDMAN, M.J. 2006. Post Traumatic and acute stress disorders. Kansas: Compact Clinicals.

GROBLER, H.D. & SCHENCK, C.J. 2010. Person centred facilitation: process, theory and practice. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

JANOFF-BULMAN, R. & FRIEZE, I. 1983. A theoretical perspective of understanding reactions to victimization. Journal of Social Issues, 39:2.

KRUEGER, R.A. & CASEY, M.A. 2000. Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

KVALE, S. 1994. Ten standard objections to qualitative research interviews. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 25(2):147-173.

LE CROY, C.W. 2002. The call to Social Work. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

LE DOUX, J.E. 1994. Emotion, memory and the brain. Scientific American, 270(6):50-57.

MACK, N., WOODSONG, C., MacQUEEN, K.M., GUEST, G. & NAMEY, E. 2005. Qualitative research methods: a data collectors field guide. USAID.

MARSELLA, A.J., FRIEDMAN, M.J. & SPAIN, E.H. 1996. Ethno-cultural aspects of post traumatic stress disorder: an overview of issues and research directions. In: MARSELLA, A.J., FRIEDMAN, M.J., GERRITY, E.T. & SCOURFIELD, R.M. (eds) Ethno-cultural aspects of post traumatic stress disorder: issues, research and clinical applications. Washington. American Psychological Association.

MARSHALL, C. & ROSSMAN, G.B. 2006. Designing qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

MATSAKIS, A. 1996. I can’t get over it: a handbook for trauma survivors (2nd ed). Oakland CA: Harbinger.

MILLER, W.L. & CRABTREE, B.J. 1999. The dance of interpretation. In: CRABTREE, B.J. & MILLER, W.L. Doing qualitative research (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

MILLWARD, L.J. 1995. Focus groups. In: BREAKWELL, G.M., HAMMOND, S. & FIFE-SHAW, C. (eds) Research methods in Psychology. London: Sage Publications.

MOKGATHLE, B. 2001. Psychopathology from an African perspective. Only study Guide for PYC 302: abnormal behaviour and mental health. Pretoria: Unisa.

MOORE, C. 1994. Carl Rogers’ self concept theory. In: MEYER, W.F., MOORE, C. & VILJOEN, H.G. (eds) Personality theories from Freud to Frankl. Isando: Lexicon.

NAPARSTEK, L.W. 2006. Invisible heroes: survivors of trauma and how the heal. London: Piatkus.

NORRIS, F.H. 1992. Epidemiology of trauma: frequency and impact of different potentially traumatic events on different demographic groups. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60(3):409-418.

O’LEARY, Z. 2005. Researching real world problems: a guide to methods of inquiry. London: Sage Publications.

RETIEF, Y. 2004. Healing for trauma. Cape Town. Struik.

ROGERS, C. 1951. Client centered therapy: its current practice, implications and theory. London: Constable.

ROGERS, C. 1967. On becoming a person: a therapists view of psychotherapy. London: Constable.

ROGERS, C. 1990. The Carl Rogers reader. London: Constable.

RUBIN, A. & BABBIE, E. 2005. Research methods for Social Work (5th ed). Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole.

SCHENCK, C.J. 2004. Working conditions of Social Workers in rural areas in South Africa. The Social Work Practitioner Researcher, 16(2):191-199.

SCHENCK, C.J. 2009. The socio-economic realities of the Social Work students of the University of South Africa. Social Work/Maatskaplikewerk, 45(3):299-313.

STEWART, J. & SWARTZ, L. 2005. Post traumatic stress symptoms in emergency service ambulance personnel. Social Work/MaatskaplikeWerk, 41(4):361-377.

TERRE BLANCHE, M., DURRHEIM, K. & KELLY, M. 2006. First steps in qualitative data analysis. In: TERRE BLANCHE, M., DURRHEIM, K. & PAINTER, D. (eds) Research in practice (2nd ed). Cape Town: University of Cape Town.

VALOR-SEGURA, I., EXPOSITO, F. & MOYA, M. 2011. Victim blaming and exoneration of the perpetrator in domestic violence: the role of beliefs in a just world and ambivalent sexism. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 14(1):195-206.

VAN DER KOLK, B.A. HOPPER, J.W. & OSTERMAN, J.E. 2001. Exploring the nature of traumatic memory: combining clinical knowledge with laboratory methods. In: FREYD, J.J. & DE PRINCE, A.P. (eds) Trauma and cognitive science: a meeting of minds. Science and human experience. Place unknown: Haworth Press.

VAN DYK, A.C. 2000. Introduction to Social Work and the helping process. Only study Guide for SCK 102X. Pretoria: Unisa.

WADE, B. 2009. Unisa Social Work students’ experiences of trauma: an exploratory study from a person centred perspective. Pretoria: Unisa. (Unpublished DPhil thesis)




How to Cite

Wade, B., & Schenck, R. (2014). TRAUMA IS THE “STEALING OF MY SENSE OF BEING ME”: A PERSON-CENTRED PERSPECTIVE ON TRAUMA. Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, 48(3).




Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>