Vicarious Trauma, Subthreshold PTSD, and Resilience in Professional Counselors Working with Traumatized Populations
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling
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As counselors empathically listen to their clients’ traumatic experiences on a regular basis, there is a potential for counselors to be negatively impacted and become impaired (Abassary & Goodrich, 2014). Without effective protective factors in place, counselors are at risk of experiencing vicarious trauma and subthreshold PTSD from exposure to clients’ traumatic events (Nelson, 2016). The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of the vicarious trauma and subthreshold PTSD symptoms experienced by professional counselors and the factors related to resiliency that protect counselors from developing these symptoms, such as years of professional counseling experience, the amount of one’s trauma caseload, and a personal experience of trauma. Participants for this study were a national sample of 211 professional counselors recruited through various counseling list-serves. This research study established an understanding of the frequency of vicarious trauma symptoms and subthreshold PTSD symptoms experienced by professional counselors and the relationship between these symptoms and resilience. Furthermore, this study determined that years of professional experience decreased arousal symptoms of vicarious trauma and increased level of resilience in professional counselors, and that having a history of personal trauma increases one’s arousal vicarious trauma symptoms. Implications for professional counselors and counselor educators to mitigate and lessen the symptoms of vicarious trauma and subthreshold PTSD and maximize resiliency in professional counselors are discussed.