What is vicarious trauma?

is "...the negative transformation in the helper that results … from empathic engagement with trauma survivors and their traumatic material, combined with a commitment or responsibility to help them" (Pearlman & Caringi, 2009).

What is vicarious trauma?

Working with trauma survivors is important and meaningful work.  The experience of having someone trust us enough to share their trauma stories and emotional distress, as well as their strength and resilience, is extremely rewarding. However, this process of deeply engaging with people's fear, pain and suffering, touches us in various ways and can leave us feeling raw or vulnerable.  The emotional residue of exposure to the trauma stories of our clients or distressing and graphic material, is referred to as vicarious trauma.  It is also sometimes referred to as compassion fatigue

Vicarious traumatisation is a helpful framework for understanding these effects which can include changes in our belief systems, secondary traumatic stress (PTSD-like symptoms),  and behavioural changes like substance misuse and social withdrawal.

Whilst vicarious trauma is an occupational risk for people working with survivors of trauma, it is not an inevitable outcome. An organisational culture that normalises the effects of working with trauma can help to create a supportive environment in which professionals feel able to ask for help without feeling inadequate/ineffective. Helpful structures which  mitigate the risk of vicarious trauma include training, reflective practice and clinical support, as well as providing access to external psychological support  

Contact us


HPC reg logo CMYK


 Blue Room Psychology & Trauma Services Ltd.

Company number 11162309

Privacy Policy | Cookie policy