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Vicarious posttraumatic growth in the trauma therapist : do organizational factors impact differently on therapists working in private practice compared to therapists employed in clinic/institutional workplaces?


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Black, LF 2010 , 'Vicarious posttraumatic growth in the trauma therapist : do organizational factors impact differently on therapists working in private practice compared to therapists employed in clinic/institutional workplaces?', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Following a traumatic event many people experience on-going negative symptoms; in contrast
some who survive trauma become stronger or grow from the experience in some way (Tedeschi
& Calhoun, 1995, 1996; Linley & Joseph, 2002). In addition to those who experience an event
directly, there are those who experience the event indirectly or vicariously (Figley, 1995;
Kassam-Adams, 1995; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; Pearlman & MacIan, 1995). Professionals
likely to experience a traumatic event vicariously include emergency response workers and
police officers. These professionals attend a traumatic event and witness the atrocities occurring;
however there may also be a therapist, social worker or a psychologist who hears about the
event, days, weeks or even years down the track and who is potentially exposed to similar
experiences many times during their career. It is those who have been vicariously exposed to the
traumatic experience of others that this literature review is interested in. In particular, it focuses
on the consequences for therapists who are vicariously exposed to trauma only via their clients
retelling of the event, and the schema transformations they may encounter. A recent shift to
positive psychology approaches in research and the therapeutic setting has created a focus on the
salutary outcomes of trauma on primary victims, therefore vicarious trauma and/or compassion
fatigue in the trauma therapist is reviewed and the occurrence of posttraumatic growth following
primary and secondary exposure to trauma is also examined. Of particular interest are the
personal and organizational variables which may assist in facilitating vicarious posttraumatic
growth for the trauma therapist. In order to accommodate the diverse occupational contexts in
which therapists work, this review draws a distinction between and compares the experiences of
those who work in a clinic or institutional employment with those who work in private practice.

An extensive literature illustrates the possible negative effects that providing trauma
therapy can have on the therapist. Yet little is known about the potential positive outcomes
experienced by therapists as a result of this work. An influencing factor on a therapists well
being and mental health may be the climate of their work environment and the hassles or uplifts
they experience in their workplace, and personal differences such as their own experience of
trauma, and personal therapy. This questionnaire based study aimed to investigate firstly, the
existence of positive outcomes or vicarious posttraumatic growth for therapists as a result of
working with trauma clients, but also examines organizational differences in therapists who work
in private practice and those who work in clinic/institutional employment, and sought to
determine if those differences impede or facilitate vicarious posttraumatic growth. Sixty four
therapists completed the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, demographic questionnaire and the
Work Hassles and Uplifts scales. Data were divided into two groups based on type of work place
(private practice vs. clinic/institution). Results show that most therapists reported positive
outcomes as a result of their work. No difference was found between the employment groups and
levels of posttraumatic growth. However, therapists who reported more work uplifts also
reported higher levels of posttraumatic growth. No difference was found between the two
workplace groups on the uplifts scale, however, clinic/institutional therapists scored significantly
higher on the work hassles questionnaire. Implications for the workplace are discussed and
suggested directions for further research is outlined.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Black, LF
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the author

Additional Information:

Available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MPsych(Clin))--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references

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