Advertisement

How Counsellors Cope with Traumatized Clients: Personal, Professional and Organizational Strategies

  • Sally V. HunterEmail author
  • Margot J. Schofield
Article

This qualitative study examined the experiences of counsellors and their perceptions of resources that helped them cope with traumatized clients and difficult client sessions. The research was conducted using in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of eight counsellors working in five counselling agencies. The study identified how counsellors develop their own personal and professional strategies for coping with challenge, and the supportive structures and coping strategies provided by agencies. From these counsellors’ stories of learning to cope with traumatized clients and traumatic material, we highlight some recommendations that may facilitate the development of effective coping strategies for the prevention or amelioration of vicarious traumatization.

KEY WORDS:

trauma vicarious traumatization qualitiative research counselling strategies 

Notes

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This paper is based on research conducted as part of Sally Hunter's Master of Counselling (Honours) thesis at the University of New England. We would like to acknowledge the assistance of five Sydney counselling agencies and the counsellors themselves for devoting their time, energy and wisdom to the project. We would also like to acknowledge the support of Professor Victor Minichiello of the University of New England.

REFERENCES

  1. Betts Adams, K., Matto, H. C., & Harrington, D. (2001). The Traumatic Stress Institute Belief Scale as a measure of vicarious traumatisation in a national sample of clinical social workers. The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 82(4), 363–371.Google Scholar
  2. Blatt, S. J., Sanislow, C. A. I., Pikonis, P. A., & Zuroff, D. C. (1996). Characteristics of effective therapists: Further analysis of data from the National Institute of Mental Health Treatment of Depression Collaboration Research Program. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(6), 1276–1284.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bohart, A., & Tallman, K. (1996). How clients make therapy work: The process of active self-healing. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  4. Brady, J. L., Guy, J. D., Poelstra, P. L., & Brokaw, B. F. (1999). Vicarious traumatization, spirituality, and the treatment of sexual abuse survivors: A national survey of women psychotherapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30(4), 386–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cherniss, C. (1995). Beyond burnout: Helping teachers, nurses, therapists, and lawyers recover from stress and disillusionment. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Cushway, D., & Tyler, P. (1996). Stress in clinical psychologists. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 42(4), 141–149.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Feltham, C. (Ed.). (1999). Understanding the counselling relationship. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Figley, C. R. (Ed.). (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  9. Follette, V. M., Polusny, M. A., & Milbeck, K. (1994). Mental health and law enforcement professionals: Trauma history, psychological symptoms, and impact of providing services to child sexual abuse survivors. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25(3), 275–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gamble, S. J. (2002). Self-care for bereavement counselors. In N. B. Webb (Ed.), Helping bereaved children: A handbook for practitioners. New York: Guildford.Google Scholar
  11. Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  12. Hubble, M. A., Duncan, B. C., & Miller, S. D. (Eds.). (1999). The heart and soul of change: What works in therapy. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  13. Kottler, J. A. (1999). The therapist's workbook: Self-assessment, self-care, and self-improvement exercises for mental health professionals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  14. Kottler, J. A., & Schofield, M. J. (2001). Dealing with crisis and stress in one's life. In E. R. Welfel, & R. E. Ingersoll (Eds.), The Mental Health Desk Reference (pp. 426–432). New York: Wiley Press.Google Scholar
  15. McCann, L., & Pearlman, L. A. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3(1), 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Munroe, J. F. (1995). Ethical issues associated with secondary trauma in therapists. In B. H. Stamm (Ed.), Secondary traumatic stress: Self-care issues for clinicians, researchers and educators (pp. 211–229). Lutherville: Sidran Press.Google Scholar
  17. Neumann, D. A., & Gamble, S. J. (1995). Issues in the professional development of psychotherapists: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in the new trauma therapist. Psychotherapy, 32(2), 341–347.Google Scholar
  18. Pearlman, L. A., & Mac Ian, P. S. (1995). Vicarious traumatization: An empirical study of the effects of trauma work on trauma therapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(6), 558–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K. W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  20. Saakvitne, K. W., & Pearlman, L. A. (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatization. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  21. Schauben, L. J., & Frazier, P. A. (1995). Vicarious traumatization: The effects on female counselors of working with sexual violence survivors. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 49–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sexton, L. (1999). Vicarious traumatisation of counsellors and effects on their workplaces. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 27(3), 393–403.Google Scholar
  23. Sherman, M. D., & Thelen, M. H. (1998). Distress and professional impairment among psychologists in clinical practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 29(1), 79–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stamm, B. H. (1995). Secondary traumatic stress. Lutherville, Maryland: Sidran Press.Google Scholar
  25. Steed, L., & Bicknell, J. (2001). Trauma and the therapist: The experience of therapists working with the perpetrators of sexual abuse. The Australian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. Retrieved 23 February 2004 from http://www.massey.ac.nz/∼trauma/issues/2001-1/steed.htm.Google Scholar
  26. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd edn.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  27. Walker, M. (2001). The aftermath of abuse: The effects of counselling on the client and the counsellor. In P. Milner, & S. E. Palmer (Eds.), Counselling: The BACP counselling reader (Vol. 2, pp. 246–252). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HealthUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.Psychotherapy Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA)MelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations