Date of Conferral
Counselor Education and Supervision
Vicarious trauma impacts counselors in various ways: by diminishing their feelings of importance in the profession, hindering their completion of adequate work with clients, and negatively affecting their personal life choices. Although numerous qualitative and quantitative studies have been conducted on vicarious trauma over the past 20 years, there is a rarity of research investigating the implications of trauma for counseling supervisors. The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences and perceptions of tertiary trauma among 11 counselor supervisors from Oklahoma and Missouri who were providing active supervision. This study was approached through a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology. The overarching research question investigated how counseling supervisors defined tertiary trauma. Interviews were transcribed and uploaded into NVivo 10, and constructs were identified via an exploratory and inductive analysis. Codes and sub-themes were categorized then deductively divided into 6 primary themes that demonstrate participant perceptions of tertiary trauma. These themes included: (a) what it means to be a supervisor, (b) the understanding of vicarious trauma, (c) the base knowledge of tertiary trauma, (d) the symptoms of tertiary trauma, (e) the meaning of supervisor wellness, and (c), the and role of the supervisor. Findings from the study offer the counseling profession a working definition of tertiary trauma based in counseling supervisors' perception of the phenomenon. The study outcomes are unique because counseling supervisors are vital to the continued growth of both the profession and new counseling professionals, acting as gate keepers to the counseling profession.