This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Caring for the Caregivers: A Phenomenological Study of Supervisors and Vicarious Trauma




Fucillo, Sarah

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling


Trauma is prevalent in the world, leading individuals who have experienced trauma to seek counseling services. Counselors who listen to trauma narratives are at risk for experiencing vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is a term used to describe the negative effects of professional helping. The National Child Stress Network (2011) estimates that 50% of counselors are at risk of developing vicarious trauma with symptoms that can impact counselor effectiveness. Supervisors and Counselor Educators have an ethical responsibility to address vicarious trauma with the counselors they are supervising to prevent harm to clients (Sommer, 2008). Supervision has been documented as a protective factor against vicarious trauma; however, there is a paucity of research regarding supervisors' perception of the vicarious trauma phenomenon and how they approach vicarious trauma in supervision. This study aims to give a voice to supervisors' experiences of vicarious trauma within the supervision process. By giving a voice to supervisors and their perceptions of the vicarious trauma phenomenon, the results yield insight into the treatment and prevention methods of vicarious trauma through a supervisor’s lens. Implications for counselor supervision best practices, counselor education and training, supervisor training, and clinician health in regards to vicarious trauma will be provided.