Vicarious trauma and secondary stress in therapeutic residential care – Research briefDownload PDF
Written by Lynne McPherson Kathomi Gatwiri Natalie Parmenter
It is generally accepted that child welfare professionals are at high risk of experiencing vicarious trauma: the manifestation of traumatic symptoms resulting from working with individuals who, themselves, have encountered significant abuse or hardship. Individuals who are drawn to the child welfare field have been found to be high in personal attributes such as empathy (Macnamara & Mitchell, 2019). Additionally, the profession is characterised by high and complex caseloads and subject to a challenging and ever changing policy environment (Miller et al, 2019). Those working with young people in out-of-home care, and particularly those in residential care – populations who are amongst the most vulnerable in society – are especially susceptible to ‘secondary trauma’. The negative impacts of vicarious trauma extend to high staff turnover, which further exacerbates the sense of instability and having a lack of ‘trusting relationships’ experienced by the young people in care themselves (Strolin-Goltzman et al 2010). This brief is focused on what is known about the factors that both worsen and reduce the risk of vicarious trauma and like conditions for those in the child welfare field. It has a particular focus on self-care strategies.
The aim of this research brief is to provide an overview of:
- The prevalence of vicarious trauma and its like conditions amongst child welfare professionals
- Factors correlating with vicarious trauma and other stress-related onditions
- Self-care and organisational strategies for reducing vicarious trauma and Implications for practice at individual and organisational levels