Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences




There is a pressing need for more research, not only about the experience of vicarious traumatization (VT), but also how academic institutions can best prepare graduate students for this experience. This qualitative study provided insight into the shared, lived experience of VT, effective coping strategies, and the need for a graduate-level course in trauma therapy. A purposive sample of 11 master’s-level trauma therapists, simultaneously enrolled in a doctoral program, responded to questions about their experiences with VT, their ways of coping, and ideas for a graduate-level course. Data were analyzed via a series of steps, as outlined by Moustakas (1994). That is, this researcher (1) read each interview transcript in its entirety to gain understanding about the meaning of the experience; (2) composed a list of statements in the text of the transcripts that relate to the phenomenon under study and are an essential component of the experience being studied; (3) labeled horizons that represent emotions, sensitivities, and/or actions involved in the experience of the phenomenon; and (4) developed individual, then group, depictions of the experience. Findings included 9 themes: adverse emotional and physical effects of VT, the need for a graduate-level course in trauma therapy, the double-edged sword of being a trauma therapist, coping on three levels (intellectual/professional, spiritual, and physical), how the experience of VT can facilitate a deeper sense of spirituality, self-doubt, decreased trust in other people, difficulty separating clients’ experiences from one’s own life, and fear of the unknown. Spirituality, an area thought to be damaged by VT, was found instead to be strengthened. This study serves to better inform graduate students, as well as those who educate them.