Saturday, April 4, 2015

Trauma Workers Experience Both Vicarious Trauma and Vicarious Resilience, Study Finds

A qualitative study interviewed 1 male and 12 female mental health providers working at torture treatment centers. The mental health providers were all members of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs with a range of 4-30 years of experience working with trauma victims. The researchers -- Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe, Kyle Killian, David Engstrom, and David Gensei (2015) -- performed a modified grounded theory method to identify themes in the interviews.

The analysis of the qualitative data identified themes relevant to both vicarious resilience and vicarious trauma. The trauma workers identified themes of vicarious trauma including sleep disruption, nightmares, fearfulness, irritability, fatigue, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, dissociation, hyperarousal, negative affect, and numbness. Themes of vicarious resilience were also discovered and included changes in goals or priorities, increased hopefulness and client-based inspiration, change/impact on spiritual beliefs and practices, increases in self-care practices, increased resiliency and perspective-taking on one's own challenges, increased racial, cultural and structural consciousness, and awareness of relative privilege, marginalization, and oppression.

The researchers noted, "trauma therapists can be potentially transformed by their clients' resilience in positive, but not painless, ways. Choosing to work in the trauma field with survivors of torture and politically motivated violence involves immersion in profound ongoing experiences of intertwined pain, joy, and hope, and expanding the boundaries of self -- personally and professionally" (p. 153).

The article was published in Journal of Humanistic Psychology, and the full text article can be found here.