Due to their secondary exposure to the traumatic events disclosed by clients, therapists who work with sexual violence survivors are at risk of experiencing secondary traumatic stress, which includes symptoms such as fear, sleeping difficulties, and intrusive images (see Stamm, 2010). Because therapist self-care is paramount for quality delivery of mental health services, there has been increasing interest in identifying factors that may protect therapists from the impact of secondary traumatic stress. We examined whether the negative effects of secondary traumatic stress on therapist adjustment would be buffered by perceived benefits from trauma work. Sixty-one therapists, who work with sexual violence survivors, completed measures of secondary traumatic stress, perceived benefits and a range of adjustment indicators. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses demonstrated that secondary traumatic stress predicted higher scores on depression (β = .46, p =.001) and anxiety (β = .36, p = .012), and lower scores on satisfaction with life (β = -.33, p =.021) and positive effect (β = -.44,p =.002). After controlling for secondary traumatic stress and perceived benefits, the interaction term for secondary traumatic stress and perceived benefits was significant in the equations predicting depression (β = -.29, p =.015), anxiety (β = -.41, p = .001), and satisfaction with life (β = .31, p = .012). The results provide support for the buffering role of perceived benefits in adjustment to secondary traumatic stress and suggest that providing a supportive environment for therapists to explore the benefits they perceive from trauma work may be helpful.
Samios, C., Abel, L., & Rodzik, A. K. (2012). Secondary traumatic stress, adjustment in therapists who work with sexual violence survivors. International Journal of Psychology, 47, 781-782. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207594.2012.709133