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Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims

Abstract

Within the context of their new constructivist self-development theory, the authors discuss therapists' reactions to clients' traumatic material. The phenomenon they term “vicarious traumatization” can be understood as related both to the graphic and painful material trauma clients often present and to the therapist's unique cognitive schemas or beliefs, expectations, and assumptions about self and others. The authors suggest ways that therapists can transform and integrate clients' traumatic material in order to provide the best services to clients, as well as to protect themselves against serious harmful effects.

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McCann, I.L., Pearlman, L.A. Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. J Trauma Stress 3, 131–149 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00975140

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Key words

  • countertransference
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • contact victimization
  • trauma
  • therapy with victims
  • burnout