Burnout, Vicarious Traumatization, and Its Prevention

Pross, C. (2006). Burnout, Vicarious Traumatization, and Its Prevention. Torture, 16 (1), 1-9. 

Abstract: Previous studies on burnout and vicarious traumatization are reviewed and summarized with a list of signs and symptoms. From the author's own observations two histories of caregivers working with torture survivors are described which exemplify the risk, implications and consequences of secondary trauma. Contributing factors in the social and political framework in which caregivers operate are analyzed and possible means of prevention suggested, particularly focusing on the conflict of roles when providing evaluations on trauma victims for health and immigration authorities. Caregivers working with victims of violence carry a high risk of suffering from burnout and vicarious traumatization unless preventive factors are considered such as: self-care, solid professional training in psychotherapy, therapeutic self-awareness, regular self-examination by collegial and external supervision, limiting caseload, continuing professional education and learning about new concepts in trauma, occasional research sabbaticals, keeping a balance between empathy and a proper professional distance to clients, protecting oneself against being misled by clients with fictitious PTSD. An institutional setting should be provided in which the roles of therapists and evaluators are separated. Important factors for burnout and vicarious traumatization are the lack of social recognition for caregivers and the financial and legal outsider status of many centers. Therefore politicians and social insurance carriers should be urged to integrate facilities for traumatized refugees into the general health care system and centers should work on more alliances with the medical mainstream and academic medicine.

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