Saturday, July 19, 2008

Vicarious Traumatization

Secondary Trauma
Compassion Fatigue
Compassion Stress

The transformation of the helpers inner experience (or world view) as a result of empathic engagement with survivor clients and their trauma material.

This is classified an occupational hazard.

“The natural, predictable, treatable, and preventable unwanted consequence of working with suffering people…”

Social isolation / difficulty trusting others
Disruptions of daily routine
Suspicion, fear or feelings of persecution
Cynical view of the world
Hopelessness to make a difference in clients’ lives
Family members may be asking you to stop talking about your experiences because it is so distressing to them
Question your own life experiences
Hyperarousal (Erisson et. al., 2001)

Hallmark symptoms:
Intense, sometimes overwhelming, experiences that profoundly disrupt your previous beliefs AND
Profound loss of the familiar

Q. Why does this happen?
A. The helper’s inability to process the traumatic material which they are hearing or witnessing. Also, empathic engagement paired with very slow progress. Must consider:
- The situation (work setting, type and number of clients, the nature of the trauma, exposure to the trauma)
- Personal experiences of the helper (gender, professional identity, resources, support, personal history, personal life circumstance, coping style)
- Pervasive- different from burnout

Preventing VT & Subsequent Resignations
Self-Care- most important element is consistency
Organizational responsiveness (facilitated support groups, peer groups, in-service trainings, supervision, lunch groups, informal socializing) Further, variety in work schedules, types of clients and daily job responsibilities are indicated.
Education of employees and volunteers

Self-Care techniques to consider
Plenty of sleep
Proper, balanced and healthy nutrition
Progressive muscle relaxation
Physical exercise
Time off /Vacation
Spend time with loved ones
Peer support networks
Personal therapy

Coping with VT
Workers “adapt” to events in order to protect one’s self and the meaning of the event to their lives. However, the question remains,
“How can we help someone else, if we cannot first help ourselves?” (APA, 2002)

The American Red Cross (2001) reported, “Most trauma workers are dedicated individuals who also tend to be perfectionists. Because of this, they are at risk of pushing themselves too hard and of not being satisfied with what they accomplish….” The Red Cross goes on to say that the most important recommendation they have is that “when your shift is over, leave and take time to recharge…”

Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization