Vicarious trauma is the cumulative emotional residue that a
counsellor may experience when working with people who have suffered traumatic
life events (Vicarious Trauma, 2018)
is a negative reaction to trauma exposure,
and includes a range of psychosocial symptoms.
Any person who works
with victims of trauma is at risk of being negatively impacted by the effects
of vicarious trauma.
Factors that make
counsellors or volunteers vulnerable to the risk of vicarious trauma include, prior traumatic experiences; social
isolation, both on and off the job; a tendency to avoid feelings, withdraw, or
assign blame to others in stressful situations; difficulty in expressing
feelings; a lack of preparation, orientation, training, and supervision in their
jobs; being new and less experienced at their jobs; constant and intense
exposure to trauma with little or no variation in work tasks; and a lack of an
effective and supportive process for discussing traumatic content of the work.
Everyone may experience
the effects of vicarious trauma differently. Negative reactions include, but
are not limited to difficulty in managing emotions; feeling emotionally numb or
shut down; fatigue, sleepiness, or difficulty falling asleep; physical problems
or complaints; being easily distracted; feeling hopeless about the future; relationship
problems; feeling vulnerable or worrying excessively about potential dangers; increased
irritability; aggressive, explosive, or violent outbursts and behaviour; destructive
coping or addictive behaviours; lack of or decreased participation in
activities that used to be enjoyable; avoiding work; and a combination of
symptoms that comprise a diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
may be identified by talking to an individual about the impact of their work;
by discussing vicarious trauma as part of supervision; by discussing the
demands of loved one’s job and its impact on other family members; or through therapeutic
or professional assistance.