The Nature of Vicarious Trauma

Obviously those who suffer serious crises and calamities, do not choose to become traumatized, do not select suffering. Yet, quite consciously, caregivers do choose to become involved.  Your experience of trauma and suffering as a professional is not direct; you are not bloodied nor do you lose loved ones but instead you suffer an accretion of exposure to the suffering endured by your clients or patients.  This second hand exposure, multiplied case after case, day after day, has the likely effect of traumatizing professionals in ways that can be either obvious or subtle, and can, in turn, reduce your effectiveness, rob you of your enthusiasm, and shorten your tenure. 

This workshop reflects an obvious truism: care providers must cultivate self-care skills that are meaningful and effective in order to not only survive but thrive in this work.  Such self-care emerges from serious examination.  It is our intention to create a space, safe and restorative enough, that you will be willing to honestly explore what you bring to your work, the secondary trauma your face and how it is affecting your life.

In addition, we hope you will take away new tools to minimize the vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue you experience and new ideas to enrich the quality of your work.  All your clients or patients will then receive the benefit of your having attended this training. 

A Selected List of Secondary Trauma Stress Reactions


​• Persistent trauma imagery
• Diminished concentration
• Increased anxiety
• Sleep disturbances or nightmares
• Loss of purpose
• Isolating from family or friends
• Frequent or increased illness
• Depression; Episodes of sadness
• Lessened ability to tolerate strong emotions
• Overindulgences (food, drink/drugs, sex)
• Sense of helplessness
• Resentment of one’s institution
• Mistrust of others; Fearfulness
• Difficulties functioning as a team member
• Increased self criticism
• Increased anger; self-righteousness
• Sense of depletion, emptiness
• Perseverating about patients/clients
• Thoughts of self-harm
• Over-identification with patients/clients
• Avoidance of patients’ traumatic experiences
• Emotional roller coaster
• Shift in outlook from optimism to pessimism
• Shame-based feelings of inadequacy
• Intrusive thoughts
• Incresed startle reactions
• Loss of belief in a safe world
• Alienation
• Blaming patients/clients for their traumas
• Loss of confidence in self
• Thoughts of self-harm
• Thoughts of harming others

Hard to believe, but all of these can afflict those who are the healers of others.