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  • Vicarious Trauma
  • Volume 9 | Winter 2008

articles | Winter 2008

Secondary Trauma and Burnout in Attorneys: Effects of Work with Clients Who are Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Over the last generation and particularly following the inclusion of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (’PTSD”) in the 1980 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition (’DSM-III”), the mental health field has witnessed an explosion of interest in trauma and its effects. A decade after the publication of DSM-III, the mental health community began to recognize the effects of working with trauma victims on helping professionals themselves. The phenomenon of ’Secondary Traumatic Stress” (’STS”), also labeled ’Compassion Fatigue,” has been defined as the ’natural consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other—the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.” STS, as defined by Figley, involves symptoms analogous to those seen in PTSD, i.e., re-experiencing images of the traumas of the person receiving aid, avoidance of reminders of this material, numbing in affect and function, and persistent arousal. Read more . . .

Healing Ourselves

When I was in private practice, I passed a flower shop when driving between the courthouse and my office. Following a particularly difficult court experience, I would stop and buy flowers for my office or home. The experience of being in a place of nurture and beauty restored my sense of well-being. The simple act of purchasing flowers took me from the ugliness of particularly disturbing facts or behaviors to beauty. The shopkeepers seemed perfectly content to let me browse for whatever time I wanted. The act of viewing the various displays and connecting with the many varieties of flora nurtured my spirit. Occasionally I would stand in the cold storage area reserved for more delicate flowers because I could be perfectly alone in an environment of, beauty, non-violence and non-judgment. The cold would act as a natural timer that pushed me out to resume my work life. Read more . . .