Extensive Literature Review Assignment
VICARIOUS TRAUMA 2
The Impact of Vicarious Trauma on Peer Recovery Counselor’s Ability to Self-Disclose
R7035 Methods and Analysis of Qualitative Research
Running Head: VICARIOUS TRAUMA 1
Peer counseling is a professional job that involves mediating problems, by helping peers to find answers for themselves. A peer counselor, therefore, is a mediator, who acts as a compassionate guide by applying knowledge, using specific tools and following specific rules and regulations in an effort to help people get past obstacles, thereby reaching their goals and desires. It follows, therefore, that peer counselors are bound to be fatigued, as they have to act as mediators to numerous problems brought to them by different people. It is important to note, that it is a job requirement for them to build a close connection with their clients. Therefore, the more the number of clients, the higher the number of connections they are required to make. In the long run, this brings about “compassion fatigue”, also described as vicarious trauma (1Al-Mateen, Linker, Damle, Hupe, Helfer & Jessick, 2015). This paper, therefore, intends to investigate the impact this has on the peer recovery counselor’s ability to self-disclose and help their next patient recover from their own problems.
Vicarious trauma is a term that generally described as the price associated with providing ‘caring’ services to others. The term was first coined by Perlman & Saakvitne in 1995. It has since been adopted by several other researchers including Stemm (1995, 1997) who named it as ‘secondary traumatic stress’ and Figley, (1982) who termed it as secondary victimization. Indeed, going by the last two names described by these authors, vicarious trauma is a condition that affects the counselor offering peer counseling services while on duty. According to Hernandez-Wolfe, Killian, Engstrom & Gangsei, (2015), working with trauma survivors can be traumatizing in itself, given that it involves listening to the traumatic experiences of clients and trying to find a long-lasting solution for them. For some, it might take months or even years to overcome them, yet all the while a peer counselor is expected to maintain a professional relationship with them, which basically involves being compassionate.
Vicarious trauma can also be described as the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people, as they are hearing their trauma stories, and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured (Killian, Hernandez-Wolfe, Engstrom & Gangsei, 2017). This should not be mistaken for being tired or burnt out. In contrast, getting burnt out often implies that a person is simply tired of taking the same routine over and over again. It also means that this person needs a change in environment, such as when a person is tired of doing the same job that requires them to do the same duties and responsibilities every day. Putting this into context, it means that a peer counselor is said to be burnt out because they get to take the same route to work, the same subway back home, and meet the same people in the process. Simply put, this can easily be fixed by changing the environment (Quitangon & Evces, 2015). Vicarious trauma, on the other hand, can be experienced by a counselor as soon as they start working. Welsh, (2014) noted that this may occur as result of the experiences brought forth by a single client. It can also be triggered midway, or at the end of a career in peer counseling.
Signs and Symptoms
Makadia, Sabin‐Farrell & Turpin, (2017) also described vicarious trauma as a state of tension and preoccupation as a result of the traumatic stories told by clients. According to them, such experiences come in different forms. For instance, a counselor may choose to avoid thinking about a specific experience that caused them to be traumatized themselves when it is mentioned by a client. They may also find themselves in a state of arousal that is persistent, have difficulty talking about their own experiences or feelings and get constant feelings of anger and agitation. Others may feel jumpy or startled, are sleepy or stay awake for long periods of time thinking about their clients while others take it out on themselves by overeating or undereating (Cummings, Singer, Hisaka, & Benuto, 2018). Some have dreams about the experiences told by clients. It is also common for counselors to have feelings of diminished joy towards the things they once enjoyed doing. This leads to feelings of dissatisfaction and provide zero value for personal accomplishment because they feel trapped by being a counselor. Eventually, counselors with vicarious trauma end up battling with intrusive thoughts, feelings of hopelessness and blame others for their misfortunes (Cosden, Sanford, Koch & Lepore, 2016).