Vicarious or secondary trauma

Rachel Erwin
Posted July 26, 2010 from United States

One of the things that I have been interested in lately is the effect of secondary or vicarious trauma, that is trauma that comes from treating victims of abuse. I am wondering what other people are doing to address this in themselves?

I have found dancing to be one way to move the energy of trauma through my nervous system: at the end of the day, allowing myself to sweat out the toxins of trauma has been essential in working with such profound and complex PTSD.

The facilitators of trauma work often neglect their own needs and forgo many of the things they suggest to their clients. Often we suffer from our own trauma and forget to continue to release and integrate for ourselves. This is a scary place at times and it is easy to fall in the trap of healing others rather than looking at oneself. Being a practitioner can be isolating and asking for help a perceived sign of weakness.

I continue to seek support and allow myself to receive from others when my own history is present. When I see my own patience and sense of well being becoming strained or when I become sick I sit back and look at where my own spirit is calling for attention.

Taking care of oneself is like sharpening a tool. I find that my clients are only able to go as far in their own recovery as I am in my own. I continue to look at ways to become more present centered and alive so that my work creates a sense of coming home rather than another way to "help" someone, offering short answers to life questions.

I love my work and I wish to be doing this for the rest of my life or until I am no longer needed! Let's find ways to support each others healing and integration and maintain ethical standards for ourselves around self care. Let's create cultures within our organizations that support and acknowledge the work we are doing, while treating some of the worst trauma known to man.

Comments 1

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  • Carri Pence
    Jul 27, 2010
    Jul 27, 2010

    It is amazing how when you are emotionally and mentally exhausted you become physically sick. We need to start placing our emotional health in the level of our physical health, because they not only share the same home but support one another. I am glad you have figured out a way to release the toxins, where positive movement creates a clear mind. I hope you can use PulseWire as another form of getting the toxins out. Where your voice is just like a form of dance, it inspires you, creates poetry in motion, and gives us a visual in how life can be beautiful once we learn how to be ourselves and listen/feel the rhythms of our bodies!