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Manual of Articles Sections 8 - 16
The hallmark of vicarious traumatization is disrupted frame of reference.
Ones identity, world view, and spirituality together constitute frame of
reference. As a result of doing trauma work with battering relationships, therapists
are likely to experience disruptions in their sense of identity (sense of ones
self as a woman/man, as mother/father or ones customary feeling states),
world view (moral principles, ideas about causality, life philosophy), and spirituality
(meaning and hope, sense of connection with something beyond oneself, awareness
of all aspects of life, and sense of the non-material).
In the trauma therapist example, at least one-third of respondents found the following strategies helpful in coping with the demands of domestic violence therapy: socializing, exercising, spending time with family (Table 2). Activities that ranked lower, although still endorsed by many as helpful, were engaging in social justice activities and having a massage. Over 35% of subjects reported engaging in activities that promoted physical health and well-being as a coping strategy.
Rest and leisure are extremely restorative to ones frame of reference as well as to ones self-capacities. Taking a vacation and pleasure reading ranked first and fourth, respectively, as activities psychologists found helpful in alleviating work-related stress. Over 35% of subjects reported engaging in leisure activities such as gardening, reading, listening to music, and going to movies as ways of coping with work-related stress.
World view, another aspect of frame of reference, is also very sensitive to both psychological trauma and to helping trauma survivors. We can attempt to rebuild these shattered assumptions by spending time with happy, healthy children; working for social justice; and building or rebuilding a sense of community. Sixty-nine percent of our sample found travel helpful; in a very literal sense, travel expands our world view.
Finally, spirituality is highly sensitive to the effects of trauma and trauma recovery work. We use a broad definition of spirituality, an inherent human capacity for an awareness of an elusive aspect of experience. Approaches to addressing the spiritual damage that this work can incur include meditation, yoga, writing in a journal, engagement with art and beauty (nature and poetry). Forty-four percent of the trauma therapist sample found developing a spiritual life helpful in coping with the demands of trauma therapy. Although these activities were not rated as very helpful for most respondents in the sample, we note them here because some people do report using them and finding them helpful. Larger percentages of the subjects reported engaging in spiritually-oriented activities, but we do not know how helpful they found them.
Finding forums in which to recall and name the rewards of doing trauma therapy is essential. It renews our sense of the meaning of this work, revitalizes our connections with others and with humanity itself, and reminds us of the importance of an awareness of all aspects of life.
TA B L E 2: Activities balancing trauma work for 188 trauma therapists.
Reflection Exercise #1
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
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