Secondary Traumatic Stress and Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth in New Zealand Clinical Psychologists: The Consequences of Working with Traumatised Clients
Stapleton, M. (2017). Secondary Traumatic Stress and Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth in New Zealand Clinical Psychologists: The Consequences of Working with Traumatised Clients (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11337
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11337
Clinical psychologists who provide trauma treatment are vicariously exposed to their clients’ traumatic experiences. The responsibility of clinical psychologists to practise both effectively and safely makes assessing the negative and positive psychological consequences of vicarious exposure to trauma imperative. If provisions are not put in place to prevent the negative psychological consequences and facilitate the positive psychological consequences, then detrimental outcomes may arise for the clinician, their clients, and the organisation that they work for. The present study was designed to assess the experience of secondary traumatic stress (STS) and vicarious posttraumatic growth (VPTG) in clinical psychologists who work with traumatised clients in New Zealand. The purpose of this study was to identify the factors that were related to these phenomena, including the level of vicarious exposure to trauma (years working as a clinical psychologist, hours per week working with traumatised clients, and percentage of traumatised clients on caseload), posttraumatic cognitions, secondary trauma self-efficacy (STSE), perceived social support, and engagement in self-care activities. Seventy-two clinical psychologists completed the online survey. Significant relationships were found between the main variables in this study: STS correlated positively with posttraumatic cognitions and VPTG correlated positively with self-care. Non-hypothesised significant relationships were also found. Posttraumatic cognitions correlated significantly with hours per week working with traumatised clients, STSE, perceived social support, and self-care. Additionally, self-care correlated significantly with perceived social support. The results of this study suggest that clinical psychologists who experience more posttraumatic cognitions following vicarious exposure to trauma may be more likely to experience STS. The results also suggest that those clinical psychologists who engage in more self-care activities may be more likely to experience VPTG. As the majority of the proposed hypotheses were not supported, it appears that the factors thought to be related to STS and VPTG may not be as pertinent as previous research indicates. Overall, the results suggest that there may be other factors not explored in this study that may influence the experience of STS and VPTG. As discrepant results were found in this study, future research should continue to investigate the factors that are related to STS and VPTG in clinical psychologists. Investigation into the ways in which posttraumatic cognitions following vicarious exposure to trauma can be prevented, or reduced, would also be beneficial, as would investigation into the specific self-care activities that are related to VPTG. Future research could also investigate the barriers that may prevent clinical psychologists from engaging in self-care. Taken together, this study provides insight into the factors that are related to STS and VPTG, and importantly, identifies how STS may be prevented and VPTG may be facilitated.
University of Waikato
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