A mixed methods evaluation of vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth among counselors in training

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Tamarine M. Foreman (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Kelly Wester

Abstract: Due to the prevalence of traumatic experiences, and the high percentage of clients who have experienced trauma, it is evident most counselors will encounter clients with a history of trauma (Bride, 2004; Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995; Sommer & Cox, 2006; Tuma 2013). Counselors who work with clients who have experienced trauma "...risk deep emotional connection, both intrapsychically within themselves, and interpersonally with others" (Saakvitne, 2002, p. 445). As counselors build therapeutic relationships and empathically engage with clients, they open their selves to both the risk of vicarious traumatization and the opportunity for posttraumatic growth. Vicarious traumatization is defined as the "...transformation in the inner experience that comes about as a result of empathic engagement with clients' trauma material" (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 31) and as an enduring psychological consequence of being exposed to traumatic experiences of clients (Schauben & Frazer, 1995). On the other hand, posttraumatic growth encompasses enhanced and improved self-perception, interpersonal relationships, and philosophy of life that occurs as a result of experiencing or witnessing trauma (Arnold, Calhoun, & Tedeschi, 2005; Saakvitne, et al., 1998). The purpose of this study was to examine vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth, explore how each construct is influenced by personal characteristics of the counselor in training, and give voice to counselors in training about their initial experiences within the proximal process as they engage with clients who have been traumatized. The study utilized the constructivist self-development theory and Bronfenbrenner's (2005) bioecological theory of human development and the process-person-context-time (PPCT) research model as theoretical frameworks to examine vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth among counselors in training. An explanatory sequential mixed methods study was implemented and carried out in two phases. The first phase of the study measured vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth and examined the influence of empathy, personal trauma history, exposure to clients with a history of trauma, and supervision hours. In phase two, counselors in training were purposefully selected based on their levels of vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth. The counselors in training who participated in individual semi-structured interviews assisted in shedding light on the proximal process of counseling clients who have a history of trauma. In the current study, counselors in training exhibited an average level of vicarious traumatization and a moderate degree of posttraumatic growth that was similar to mental health professionals who had worked in the field for at least 10 years. The combination of empathy and hours of supervision were observed to significantly account for 33% of the variance in vicarious traumatization. The importance of empathy and supervision was also echoed by the voices of counselors in training who participated in phase two of the study. In addition, the counselors in training shared how presence and connection were important elements within the proximal process of counseling. While it is clear that counselors in training exhibit a level of vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth, there were inconclusive results as to what significantly contributes to the development of these constructs indicating the need for additional research. Furthermore, implications for theory, counselor educators, and supervisors gleamed from this study will be shared while taking into consideration relevant literature on vicarious traumatization and posttraumatic growth.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Counselors in Training, Posttraumatic Growth, Vicarious Traumatization
Post-traumatic stress disorder $x Patients $x Counseling of
Psychic trauma $x Patients $x Counseling of
Counseling $x Psychological aspects
Counselors $x Training of
Countertransference (Psychology)
Secondary traumatic stress

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