February 29, 1996

Stress, vicarious traumatization, and coping: Therapists’ efforts to manage the stress of treating sexual trauma.

Abstract: "The purpose of this study was to examine vicarious or secondary traumatization: the process through which therapists' indirect exposure to trauma via the psychotherapeutic relationship affects therapists. Specifically, this study was designed to explore the coping methods that therapists employ to manage the stress of treating survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and to investigate the relationships among therapists' exposure to sexual trauma survivors, their coping efforts, and therapists' symptoms of burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Members of three Virginia mental health professional organizations completed questionnaires regarding themselves, their work, their perceptions of how working with clients affect their own adjustment and well-being, and the methods they use to manage the stress of working with trauma survivors. Contrary to expectations and previous findings presented in earlier studies examining vicarious traumatization, exposure to clients who were survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse did not predict symptoms of PTSD or burnout among therapists. Among the individual and environmental variables, only therapist age was significantly and negatively related to outcome measures. The results of additional analyses suggest that the environmental variable of work setting (specifically, public sector vs. private practice) may play a significant role in the development of vicarious traumatization. These results point to the complex nature of the construct of secondary trauma, and suggest the necessity of further research investigating factors that may prevent, mitigate, or intensify the effects of work with trauma survivors on therapists."
Susannah Rene Everett
University of Virginia
Claudia J. Sowa
Department of Education
Date Added November 10, 2016
Date Modifed October 17, 2017
Collection UVA scholarship on sexual violence, 1974-

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