Vicarious Trauma

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Vicarious Trauma (VT) is a concept that was developed to describe the damaging effects on the counselors that occur from working with clients who are survivors of trauma (McCann & Pearlman, 1990). Trauma can generally be defined as a state of disruption caused by threatened stressors severe enough to make a person believe self or others is about to die or be seriously injured (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Commonly encountered client traumas in clinical settings include sexual abuse and physical assault (Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995). Reactions to trauma are typically fear, horror, or helplessness. As a result of the trauma, victims might experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as severe anxiety or arousal (American…show more content…
VT reflects counselors’ exposure to clients’ traumatic events and the subsequent cognitive disruptions experienced by counselors (Figley, 1995).Furthermore, VT has been conceptualized as being aggravated by the deep engagement of empathy with client which is intrinsic in counseling relationships McCann and Pearlman (1990). Repeated exposures to clients’ traumatic events may cause the reactions similar to symptoms of PTSD, including symptoms of reexperiencing traumatic events, avoidance, and hyperarousal (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995). By indirectly exposing to details of clients’ traumatic events during therapy sessions, therapists become witness to the traumatic realities that many clients experience. This exposure may cause the transformation within the psychological functioning of therapists (Pearlman & Mac Ian,…show more content…
As part of their work, therapists must listen to graphically details of dreadful events and witness the psychological or physical aftermath of cruelty. The experience obtained as a result from empathic engagement can have deleterious effects upon therapists. These effects negatively impact the therapist’s sense of self and could result in reactions similar to symptoms of PTSD. These reactions include including symptoms of depression, anxiety, reexperiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995). Reexperiencing involves reliving trauma scenes through flashbacks and nightmares which make the person believe he or she is living through the exact trauma (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Such reexperiencing may worsen symptoms of trauma and cause damaging effects on the therapeutic relationship (Canfield,

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