Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 307–315 | Cite as

The Ripple Effect: Lessons Learned About Secondary Traumatic Stress Among Clinicians Responding to the September 11th Terrorist Attacks

  • Mary L. PulidoEmail author
Original Paper


Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) symptoms experienced by mental health clinicians who treated clients for issues related to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were intense and unprecedented. An exploratory study, using qualitative techniques as the primary information gathering method, was conducted to gain a better understanding about “indirect” exposure to terrorism. Twenty-six mental health clinicians participated in this research effort. As part of this study, questions regarding STS were explored. STS levels among clinicians who provided care to victims of 9/11 were high 30 months after the attacks. Most clinicians lacked experience providing disaster relief mental health care. Availability of supervision and agency support was described as “weak;” however, peer support was deemed helpful. Over the past decade, progress has been made in addressing STS issues. Implications are included for social work practice, disaster mental health administration, funding sources and policy. Recommendations for future research are identified.


Secondary traumatic stress Terrorist attacks of 9/11 Shared traumatic reality Disaster mental health Indirect exposure Ripple effect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to ChildrenNew YorkUSA

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