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Vicarious trauma

Master’s Students: The Cost of Caring

Vicarious trauma can be the cost of caring. It is an emotional struggle characterized by a change in a person’s psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being (Stamm, 1999). It affects trauma-response helping professionals who work with traumatized clients, students, or work in environments where trauma occurs regularly. For example, a counselor who listens repeatedly to stories of childhood sexual abuse may develop sleep disturbances and feel as though he or she is experiencing the trauma. Another example may be a female emergency room nurse who specializes in conducting rape assessments and frequently witnesses horrific abuse endured by female rape survivors. Over time, the nurse may become emotionally exhausted and develop a fear or mistrust of men which could affect her own relationships with her husband or partner.

As a counselor, you must attend to vicarious trauma within yourself and your clients. How does a counselor know if she or he is at risk for vicarious trauma? What are the symptoms? How can she or he identify these symptoms in potential clients like those described above?


With these thoughts in mind:


Post by Day 3 a description of a possible vicarious trauma-triggering event. Describe the material that a client might bring in that could lead to vicarious trauma. Offer specific details of the trauma being described by the hypothetical client and how this might impact the counselor.  Identify yourself as a master’s student at the beginning of your post.


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