Respond to at least two of your colleagues’ postings. Respond in one or more of the following ways:
- Share an insight from having read your colleague’s posting.
- Expand on your colleague’s posting.
- Explain how you might see the significance of this assessment in treatment differently.
Response to Liam
The Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment (Laureate Education, 2014) consists of ten open-ended questions focused around components of an individual’s psyche that can be negatively impacted by direct and vicarious exposure to trauma. These components are divided into sections such as “Identity, Worldview, and Spirituality”, “Disruptions in Self-Capacities”, “Disruptions in Needs, Beliefs, and Relationships”, “Ego Resources”, “trauma “history”, and “Behavior Changes”.
Vicarious trauma is defined as a change in perception of self, the world, and others caused by repeated exposure to the trauma and suffering of others (Way, VanDeusen, & Cottrell, 2007). Research indicates that disruptions in self-esteem, self-intimacy, objectivity, and empathy can negatively impact a social worker’s ability to effectively process and regulate their emotional responses to information exposed during therapeutic sessions. Over time, this erosion of self-cognitions can lead to changes in the social worker’s perceptions of their relationships, of people around them, and of the world in general, leading to behavioral changes the reflect these changes in perception. By assessing these areas in the aforementioned categories, the Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment can effectively identify cognitive and behavioral shifts that indicate the presence of vicarious trauma. Since factors such as a history of trauma may predispose social workers to be impacted by vicarious trauma, while ego resources can act as a mitigating factor by reinforcing positive self-cognitions, the presence of these categories in the self-assessment assists in identifying risk and protective factors that could contribute to or be used to combat symptoms of vicarious trauma in affected social workers.
The Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment is significant in the prevention and treatment of vicarious trauma in three ways. The first, is that it asks questions that require introspective, thoughtful answers about the social worker’s history, views of him/her self and the world, and actions in relationships. When regularly taken, this formatting allows the tool to show changes in these areas over time that could reflect the appearance of symptoms of vicarious trauma before they begin to negatively impact the social worker’s daily life and work when used as a preventative tool, or the disappearance of symptoms over time when used as a tool to monitor treatment. The second way this tool is significant, is that it is comprehensive in the categories that it asks questions about, which can allow a social worker to discern the difference between patterns caused by a history of trauma, the appearance of vicarious trauma, as well as how, specifically, those symptoms are manifesting. This allows for informed, focused treatment approaches to be used. Finally, this tool specifically measures protective and risk factors for vicarious trauma. From a preventative standpoint, this allows social workers to know whether they may be predisposed to vicarious trauma and respond with actions and coping strategies that can bolster their defenses, and to know, specifically, what protective factors they may have so that they can consciously utilize them to combat vicarious trauma symptoms.
Laureate Education. (2004). Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment. Adapted from: Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K.W. (1995). Treating therapists with vicarious traumatization and secondary traumatic stress disorders. In C. R. Figley (Ed.) Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder. Levittown, PA: Brunner/Mazel.
Way, I., VanDeusen, K., & Cottrell, T. (2007). Vicarious trauma: Predictors of clinicians’ disrupted cognitions about self-esteem and self-intimacy. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 16(4), 81–98.
Components of the Self-Assessment
The Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment (Laureate Education, 2014), encompasses a range of problem areas that can arise from vicarious trauma and secondary trauma. Some of those areas include the schema and cognition changes, ego, personal trauma history, behavioral changes, and issues such as compulsive/addictive type behaviors.
Significance of Each Section
Upon reviewing the Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment, there were many salient features that would be critical in identifying possible VT symptoms. First, the questions regarding compulsions was especially poignant. Often people will seek immediate gratification behaviors to try to cope with trauma. Those behaviors include overeating, substance abuse, or binge shopping. For the moment, those behaviors can provide a momentary high and a break from the stressors, but they do lead to other problems, such as possible substance dependence, weight issues, or debt.
Second, a key area in the self-assessment is the section regarding disruptions in needs, beliefs, and relationships (Laureate Education, 2014). This section includes feelings of not being safe, or that people cannot be trusted, and also feelings of being unworthy as well. Lowered self-esteem can be an indicator of VT.
Third, the area regarding personal trauma history cannot be stressed enough as absolutely necessary in dynamic self-assessment. Many helping professionals enter the field to help others because of their own personal trauma history. This can fuel a passion for helping, yet on the other hand if not realized the person’s history of trauma may make them less effective in the field. That is why it is so important to make it a practice to self-assess.
Significance of Utilizing the Self-Assessment
According to Zerach and Shalev (2015), the statistics of those helping professionals exposed to trauma, showing symptoms of VT and ST is as follows: 16-20% among social workers in one U.S. military hospital, 17-19% among physicians, and 25-38% for nurses working in oncology and hospice (p. 135). It becomes clear that the effects of vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress are prevalent problems among helping professionals who are exposed to trauma on a daily basis.
That is one reason that self-assessment is so important in identifying VT and ST, but also in helping to treat the main areas affected for each person. The Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment is not only relevant for helping professionals, but also for supervisors who supervise interns as well. Before one undergoes working as a supervisor, the supervisor should be encouraged to self-assess (Berger & Quiros, 2014). This would be helpful so that the supervisor can identify areas of possible VT/ST. Providing the self-assessment to social worker interns at field placement would also be an excellent tool to get a baseline during supervision regarding possible symptomatology of VT.
Berger, R., & Quiros, L. (2014). Supervision for trauma-informed practice. Traumatology, 20(4), 296-301.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2014b). Media carousel: Trauma-response helping professionals [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Zerach, G., & Shalev, T. (2015). The Relations between violence exposure, posttraumatic stress symptoms, secondary traumatization, vicarious post traumatic growth and illness attribution among psychiatric nurses. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 29(3), 135-142. doi: 10.1016/j.apnu.2015.01.002