In this blog I’m pleased to share with you a second short clip of my presentation from the BACP Conference, focussing on vicarious trauma.
Vicarious trauma, also known as secondary trauma, can be described as indirect exposure to a traumatic event through first-hand account or narrative of that event. People in the helping professions, counsellors and therapists, humanitarian aid workers, emergency first responders, journalists, police officers, doctors, and lawyers, may be at risk of vicarious traumatisation. Any person who has a significant relationship with a survivor of trauma may also come to experience vicarious trauma.
Therapists and other helpers often hear stories of traumatic experiences in the course of their work. At times, hearing these stories may overwhelm them and lead them to experience, to a lesser extent, the same symptoms faced by the trauma survivors in their care. Vicarious trauma typically involves a shift in the world view of the helper. The helper’s beliefs about the world may be altered by repeated exposure to traumatic material.
Compassion fatigue and burnout are related concepts that share some similarities with vicarious trauma, and a person might find themselves experiencing one or more of these states at the same time.
Compassion fatigue is the condition of emotional and physical fatigue that results in the carer cutting off from their empathy to protect themselves from the impact of the work. It is often evidenced in carers that have been in the role for long periods of time. It becomes a way of their body protecting themselves. Individuals often have symptoms of feeling shut off, numb and detached.
Burnout is a term sometimes used interchangeably with vicarious trauma, but this condition does not necessarily involve a traumatic element. People can experience burnout when they have a toxic work environment or when they feel themselves to be doing tedious or otherwise trying work without getting enough time for rest or appropriate self-care.
Watch the presentation here (please note this is a very short section from a longer presentation):