Are UK psychologists ready, willing and able to assist women, girls and families impacted by Female Genital Mutilation / Circumcision?

Charmaine Elliott

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Female genital mutilation/circumcision (FGM/C) is defined as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons (World Health Organisation, 2008). The practice is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against girls and women with serious physical and mental health implications (UNICEF, 2016). Worldwide more than 200 million women have experienced FGM/C (UNICEF, 2016). It is estimated that 140,000 women in the UK have experienced FGM/C. However, little research has been conducted on the psychological effects of FGM/C, and the literature on evidence-based psychological interventions is even more scarce. Psychologists are concerned about their ability to work effectively with FGM/C (Jones, 2010). The current study aimed to explore clinical psychologists’ views on FGM/C and FGM/C affected communities and their perspectives on the opportunities and barriers to working with this client group. Eighteen psychologists working in London and Bristol across a range of services were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using Thematic Analysis informed by discourse analysis. Three major themes were identified: ‘FGM/C: ‘Other’ Cultures’ Abuse of Women’, ‘Barriers to Working with FGM/C’ and ‘ “It’s like I almost feel it myself”: Psychologists’ Responses to FGM/C’. Findings suggest that psychologists feel unskilled and unsupported by employing and training organisations to work effectively with FGM/C. Participants reported the employment of various strategies to create and maintain therapeutic engagement despite the perceived limitations imposed by a lack of training and resources. Participants largely regarded FGM/C as a traumatic cultural practice that is rooted in sexist beliefs belonging to communities that traditionally practice FGM/C. The findings are discussed in relation to relevant literature, and several possible implications for theory and clinical practice are put forward.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Liao, Dr Lih-Mei, Supervisor, External person
  • Langdon, D, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2017


  • Female genital mutilation/circumcision
  • Cross-cultural therapy
  • clinical psychology

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