Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vicarious Traumatization

During Art Therapy supervision this week, I asked everyone to draw about a time they felt vicariously traumatized by a patient or they noticed that someone was vicariously traumatized from working with the sex offenders that we treat. Since all the patients at the hospital are offenders, the risk for vicarious traumatization is high. Some staff don't even realize that it happens to them. The supervisees were able to come up with several examples including seeing another clinician "lose it" after trying to deal with a difficult patient and the stress of trying to help staff deal with the situation, feeling physically ill when hearing a patient talk about his sex offenses, and being emotionally moved when hearing about the abuse that some of the patients have suffered. It was also noted that the patients themselves vicariously traumatized each other, and staff could vicariously traumatize one another as well as a result of trying to cope with this challenging population. This was a good exercise to help staff share their feelings and to be more aware of this phenomenon, as well as how they cope with the resulting feelings.