Content warning: I’m going to be writing about sensitive material regarding trauma that might be uncomfortable.
I’m veering off my usual path for the month. Since it’s Social Work Month in March, I would like to bring awareness to the adverse effects that come with working in the field. This doesn’t only apply to social workers, this can relate to anyone in a position where they are hearing other’s traumas or witnessing traumatic events.
Vicarious trauma is a relatively new concept and is defined as “the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured.“ (worksheet here) Listening to one’s traumatic experiences can accumulate over time and negatively affect your personal mental health and your impact at work. Some personal symptoms can include:
- Detachment from others
- Changes in your appetite
- Intrusive thoughts
Individuals who have experienced trauma in their own lives are more at-risk of developing V.T. while working directly with traumatized populations. On a professional level, some symptoms can manifest as:
- Detachment from coworkers
- Loss of motivation
- Negative attitude/ reduced compassion
What are some things that can occur in the field that could contribute to V.T.?
- Listening to clients recall traumatic events
- Witnessing DV/ aftermath of DV in a client’s home
- Witnessing the removal of children from parents
How does one overcome the adverse effects of V.T. personally and professionally?
Some agencies will provide information on self-care, which is defined as steps an individual takes to maintain physical and mental well-being. Counseling can be greatly beneficial in working through V.T. as well as other types of mental health aspects. If you do have a support system professionally or personally, reaching out to them for additional support can help.
What are your thoughts on the concept of Vicarious Trauma??