Social Workers And Mental Health Providers

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Introduction

Social workers and mental health providers work in a field where trauma is prevalent. This means that people who work in these types of fields are more likely to experience what is called “secondary traumatization”, “vicarious traumatization” or “compassion fatigue”. These terms all essentially describe the negative impact of bonding with a trauma survivor and exposure to the survivor’s traumatic encounters (McCann & Pearlman 1990). These terms are different than and should not be confused “with burnout”. The term “burnout” refers to “a psychological syndrome in response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job” (Devilly, Wright, & Varker 2009). Secondary traumatization is directly related to witnessing or being exposed to the trauma someone else has experienced whereas burnout isn’t specific to a specific field, it can happen to anyone with any type of occupation.

"Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another” (NCTSN). Secondary traumatic stress disorder STSD consists of identical symptoms as posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD, the difference is that while PTSD is derived from direct exposure to trauma, STSD originates from indirect exposure (Rzeszutek, Partyka & Golab). Trauma exposure can lead to different reactions and responses and can have different effects on mental health workers. These symptoms could include but are not limited to, feeling helpless
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