Understanding how vicarious trauma can be experienced by therapists working with clients with post traumatic stress disorder

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Authors
Seery, Rebecca
Issue Date
2011
Degree
BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Publisher
Dublin Business School
Rights
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Abstract
The purpose of this research project was to gain an understanding of how vicarious trauma can be experienced by therapists working with clients with Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The research also explored how therapists resource themselves in order to reduce their risk of vicarious trauma. A sample group of six therapists were interviewed using semi-structured qualitative interviewing procedures, in order to collect in-depth data. The findings of this research revealed that in working with clients who have experienced severe trauma and subsequently PTSD can impact negatively on the therapist. Their personal outlook, behaviour and thought processes can be altered as a result of the transformative process of vicarious trauma. The findings also recommended the need for awareness of the signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma in conjunction with regular personal reflection. The majority of the therapists in this study believed that open discussion of therapists’ experiences of vicarious trauma allows for a deeper understanding of the risks, provides reassurance of the challenging nature of the work, and reduces a sense of isolation that can be felt in being witness to trauma material. The findings also indicate that the promotion of close knit teams in organisations, engaging in ongoing professional and personal development, and regularly attending supervision are essential strategies in reducing the risk of vicarious trauma. Author keywords: vicarious trauma