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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200070 Find in a Library
Title: Vicarious Traumatization, Secondary Traumatic Stress, and Burnout in Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Agency Staff
Journal: Violence and Victims  Volume:18  Issue:1  Dated:February 2003  Pages:71-86
Author(s): Stephanie Baird; Sharon Rae Jenkins
Date Published: February 2003
Page Count: 16
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined three occupational hazards of therapy with trauma victims: vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress ("compassion fatigue"), which describe therapists' adverse reactions to clients' traumatic material, along with burnout, which is a stress response to emotionally demanding occupational tasks.
Abstract: Maslach (1982) defined and measured burnout as a specific occupational stress syndrome that occurs when human service professionals become emotionally exhausted, begin to dehumanize their clients, and lose a sense of personal accomplishment at work. Figley (1983) defined secondary traumatic stress, which he later called compassion fatigue, as the experiencing of emotional duress in persons who have had close contact with a trauma survivor. In developing their construct of vicarious trauma, McCann and Pearlman (1990) proposed that the therapist's cognitive world can be altered by verbal exposure to the client's traumatic material. The current study tested 101 counselors who treat clients who have been involved in traumatic victimizations; 35 were sexual assault counselors, 17 were domestic violence counselors, and 49 indicated they worked with a dual-purpose sexual assault and domestic violence agency. Subjects provided information on their work or counseling experience, particularly regarding the past month. Other instruments administered were a compassion Fatigue Self-Test for Psychotherapists, the TSI Belief Scale Revision L, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, and the Symptom Checklist-90 Revised. The study found that client-exposure workload and being paid as a staff member (compared with being a volunteer) were related to burnout subscales, but not to overall burnout or vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, or general distress as hypothesized. Younger counselors and those with more trauma counseling experience reported more emotional exhaustion. Few individuals in the sample reached clinically significant levels of symptomatology; the sample scored similarly to other mental health professionals on the measures of distress. The sample members may have adequate coping skills or may be involved with agencies that have good staff-support mechanisms. Such mechanisms can assist workers or supervisors in cutting back on client caseloads if debilitating symptoms emerge. 4 tables and 47 references
Main Term(s): Victim counseling
Index Term(s): Behavior under stress; Burnout syndrome; Counselors; Domestic assault; Post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD); Sexual assault; Sexual assault trauma; Sexual assault victims; Stress management; Victims of violent crime
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