PTG in Clinical Practice

Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth in Psychotherapy

January 1, 2005
Journal of Humanistic Psychology

This groundbreaking study explores the positive consequences of trauma work on clinicians; findings suggest that working with trauma survivors can lead to personal growth and positive changes similar to those experienced by individuals who have directly encountered trauma.

The more [clients] work through [trauma], the closer they get to whatever that spiritual part of themselves is, and you can't sit there in the room with a person who is getting in touch with that and not know that there's a similar kind of thing going on with yourself.
- Psychotherapist interviewed for 'Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth in Psychotherapy'

Previous investigations of the impact of trauma-related psychotherapy on clinicians have emphasized the hazardous nature of such work. The present study is the first exploration of clinicians’ perceptions of trauma work to investigate in depth the positive consequences of working with trauma survivors.

A sample of 21 psychotherapists participated in a naturalistic interview exploring the impact of trauma work with a particular focus on (a) changes in memory systems and schemas about self and the world (the hallmarks of vicarious traumatization) and (b) perceived psychological growth.

In addition to reporting several negative consequences, all of the clinicians in this sample described positive outcomes. These descriptions of positive sequelae are strikingly similar to reports of growth following directly experienced trauma and suggest that the potential benefits of working with trauma survivors may be significantly more powerful and far-reaching than the existing literature’s scant focus on positive sequelae would indicate.

Read the Article “Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth in Psychotherapy”

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