Secondary Trauma

What is trauma? What is secondary trauma from the dangers that await mental health professionals? What are the methods of coping with secondary trauma?

When individuals are exposed to events outside their experiences in their daily lives, these events create trauma. The traumatic experience goes through a process of assimilation or dissimilation. For example, individuals who were raped may have thoughts such as “This incident happened to me because of me, so everything I know is wrong, I haven’t learned anything until now, if I hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time, these things wouldn’t have happened to me”. . As important as the trauma itself is how the trauma is perceived. For this reason, one of the attempts to prevent the long-term effects of trauma is to have the person share what happened to the person immediately after the trauma with other people who have experienced the same event or with a specialist.

A traumatic experience in an individual’s life can affect not only the exposure to the experience, but also the people with whom the individual is in contact. It has been suggested that the responses to primary exposure to trauma and secondary exposure are quite similar. In primary exposure, the perceived threat is to the subject, while in secondary exposure, the threat is related to the traumatic experience of an interacted person. As experienced by the person who is the focal point of the traumatic event secondary to trauma, mental health professionals who work with traumatic cases with inadequate educational equipment may show signs of re-experiencing, increased arousal, avoidance, anxiety, personality dissolution, detachment and feeling inadequate, and may have difficulty in continuing their daily life. In short, the traumatic event may have an impact on the indirectly exposed individual at least as much as the person who experienced the primary exposure. Having a personal history of trauma has a great influence on developing secondary traumatic stress. It is possible for professionals to be protected from the negative effects of secondary traumatic stress by taking certain precautions. It is known that professional experience is a protective factor against secondary traumatic stress, but playing with too many trauma victims causes this syndrome. When talking about prevention methods from this syndrome, three steps related to the preventability of the syndrome are in question. The first stage is training on awareness studies and self-care planning, the second stage is the necessity of support groups, supervision and consultation of the employees, and the third stage is the awareness of the employees and individual therapy methods. Recognizing the symptoms of empathy fatigue and secondary traumatic stress in this field will be protective at the primary level.

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