In the course of working hard to make a difference in the lives of Survivors of Torture, treatment programs often overlook, or do not know how to recognize and respond to the pervasive impact of this work on staff and the organization. While individual and professional self-care can help to reduce the effects of the “costs of caring,” organizational culture plays a key role in this process.

Direct services providers may be most at risk, but leadership should be mindful that others can be affected as well. And while systems for monitoring vicarious or secondary trauma are (or should be) in place for direct services providers at centers and programs, those systems are generally not in place for other staff – another reason for leadership to be mindful.

This section of the website presents information about how the nature of work with survivors of torture can influence staff and organizational well-being, and shares resources for individuals and organizational leadership to prevent Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma.

Vicarious Traumatization: Potential Hazards and Interventions for Disaster and Trauma Workers

Palm, K.M., Polusny, M.A., & Follette, V.M. (2004). Vicarious Traumatization: Potential Hazards and Interventions for Disaster and Trauma Workers. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 19 (1), 73-78. doi: 10.1017/s1049023x00001503. 

Abstract: Disaster and trauma workers often disregard their own reactions and needs when focusing on caring for those directly exposed to traumatic events. This article discusses the concept of vicarious traumatization, a form of post-traumatic stress response sometimes experienced by those who indirectly are exposed to traumatic events.

Vicarious Traumatization: Symptoms and Predictors

Lerias, D., & Byrne, M.K. (2003). Vicarious Traumatization: Symptoms and Predictors. Stress and Health, 19, 129-138. doi: 10.1002/smi.969. 

Abstract: Having to intervene in severe crises or bearing witness to human tragedy, can take its toll on the individual (Erickson, Vande Kemp, Gorsuch, Hoke & Foy, 2001; Lind, 2000; Lugris, 2000). These effects can include severe, debilitating anxiety that persists for months and sometimes even years following the event.