Secondary Trauma of Psychosocial Aides in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Date of Conferral







Rolande Murray


There are negative personal, psychological, and professional implications of working with individuals who have suffered from trauma, to include secondary trauma. A significant research gap exists in regard to how secondary trauma bears on psychosocial assistants (PAs). Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has a shortage of trained and licensed mental health providers, and as a result, mental health services have been shifted to PAs. Using Bandura's social cognitive theory and Orem's theory of self-care, this qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of secondary trauma, through face to face interviews with 13 PAs in Bukavu. The collected data was analyzed using Bryman's four stages of coding. This study found that PAs experienced symptoms of secondary trauma. In talking about their experiences, the themes that emerged included personal changes, perseverance, fear and insecurity, suffering, "thinking too much," nervousness, feeling lost, conflict of compassion, hopelessness, helplessness, religion, faith, the role of God and conflict. PAs had limited knowledge of secondary trauma, its effects and how to manage it. Loneliness, strength, faith, time, money and self-protection, were prominent themes around PAs' discussion of their training and experiences with coping. The findings of this research add to the understanding of secondary trauma of these PAs and may influence the personal and professional wellbeing of PAs through gaining knowledge about their experiences. Understanding secondary trauma in PAs may impact social change in the DRC through influencing the structuring of policies and delivery of mental health services to protect workers and beneficiaries.

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