Date of Conferral
Eric W. Hickey
Professionals who work with victims of sexual trauma frequently experience emotional and psychological stressors that affect their everyday life. Vicarious traumatization is an occupational risk among helping professionals, but it is not known how this phenomenon can be identified and minimized among professionals who work with victims of sexual trauma. The purpose of this qualitative narrative study was to explore the personal experiences of licensed and nonlicensed professionals who work with female victims of sexual trauma. Constructivist self-development theory and the traumagenic dynamics model provided the framework for the study. The research questions focused on the evidence of vicarious trauma among participants, the skills and techniques used to minimize the risk of vicarious trauma, and the influence of vicarious traumatization on helping professionals. Data were collected through semistructured interviews with 8 helping professionals in the Southern United States. Findings from data coding and theme analysis indicated that (a) professionals experience psychological and emotional risks in trauma work, (b) establishing boundaries and implementing self-care techniques can minimize vicarious trauma, and (c) consistent training and ongoing discussions about vicarious trauma are essential to professionals who commit their lives to helping sexual trauma victims. Findings may be used to increase awareness and education about vicarious trauma among professionals who work with victims of sexual trauma, and to develop techniques to minimize the risk of vicarious trauma.