New guidelines released for professionals working with survivors of FGM

3 Dec 2019

Women who have survived female genital mutilation (FGM) need specialist support to address the psychological and physical legacies that affect their daily lives. Manor Gardens’ Dahlia Project has been instrumental in bringing together expertise from leading pyschotherapists to develop new guidelines, published on 2nd December, to assist all professionals when supporting survivors of FGM.

Female Genital Trauma: Guidelines for Working Therapeutically with Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation was launched on 2nd December by the authors at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to an audience of counsellors and therapists to help inform their work and to enable women to access informed and specialist help more widely. The authors are Cabby Laffy, Roxana Parra Sepúlveda, Christie Coho and Leyla Hussein, with many years’ experience of psychotherapy in this field.

‘This guide will not just ensure psychotherapists are educated on how they support and work with FGM survivors in therapy,’ says Dr Leyla Hussein, one of the authors and founder of the Dahlia Project. ‘It will also safeguard women and children from all forms of harm and help women to reclaim their bodies without judgment or shame.’

As the leading specialist counselling service for Survivors of FGM, The Dahlia Project has played a significant part in bringing these ground-breaking guidelines to fruition. ‘We’ve been able to share our experience of running specialist groups and individual therapy sessions for women who have survived FGM,’ says Rosalind Jerram, Manager of Manor Gardens’ FGM service. ‘We will now be able to use these guidelines when training counsellors to ensure that survivors of FGM receive the specialist support that they need.’

The Dahlia Project has been running an international campaign for several years to raise awareness of FGM, train professionals in identifying risk  and tackling FGM, and to work with communities to end the practice. Through our campaign and community-based work we reassure women that more psychotherapists and health professionals now have an understanding of FGM and how it affects women who have undergone the practice.

As the authors state: ‘While finding ourselves working with women who had experienced FGM we discovered a gap in the literature and training, namely a lack of good practice guidance for working therapeutically with survivors of FGM. Through this shared dilemma, we ultimately decided to write the much needed guidelines ourselves, readily agreeing that we would put them online so they would be accessible to other practitioners finding themselves in the same situation … We believe the therapeutic interventions you will find in these guidelines will be best placed coming from a culturally sensitive approach that will lead you to not only think about what you do but how you do it.’

Manor Gardens Welfare Trust runs the Dahlia Project alongside services which support some of the most vulnerable people in London and has been doing so since 1913. Our Living Well Services promote physical and mental wellbeing across the Borough. ‘We have years of experience promoting health and wellbeing to the community,’ says Katy Porter, Chief Executive. ‘Our work with survivors of FGM is a key part of this. We recognise that people can be isolated and face barriers in getting the support they need. Our work empowers and ensures everyone can take an active role in managing their health and wellbeing through developing confidence and challenging societal norms within communities.’

The authors

Cabby Laffy is a psychotherapist, a psychosexual and relationship therapist, trainer and clinical supervisor. She is the founder and director of the Centre for Psychosexual Health and has designed a two-year Diploma in Integrative Psychosexual Therapy which is accredited by COSRT and NCP. She has over 25 years’ experience of working with individuals, couples and groups. She is accredited by UKCP, COSRT and NCP.

Roxana Parra Sepúlveda is a Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor and Chair of the International Attachment Network. She has specialised in working with abuse and violence survivors. Nowadays she is leading counselling services in the higher education sector and maintains a private practice. Roxana is keen on continuing the work to influence change towards societies and communities free from abuse.

Christie Coho has been acting on her passion for social justice and people’s well-being in professional and voluntary roles for over 20 years. She is a BABCP accredited and qualified EMDR psychotherapist, currently working in several NHS FGM/C clinics and trauma therapy services, along with private practice. She provides supervision and reflective practice facilitation with therapists and with non-clinical staff at community-based organisations. Christie also holds a Masters in Social Work with a mental health emphasis.

Leyla Hussein OBE is a psychotherapist and is the founder of The Dahlia Project, the pioneering support service for survivors of FGM. She also works as Global Ambassador for The Girl Generation and is an advisor on FGM to the UK Department of Health, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Advisory Group on Honour Base Violence, the Home Office FGM Working Group and the NHS Clinical Advisory Group on FGM. She is a consultant to the World Health Organisation on the development of a person-centred communication toolkit for nurses and midwives working with girls and women affected by FGM.


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