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The Effects of Trauma on the Counseling Professional


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The Effects of Trauma on Clients and Mental Health Counselors

Examples of Trauma: For this assignment we were asked to conceptualize two traumatic events to use as examples. One man-made or natural disaster and one personal trauma. The man-made disaster I choose is a mass shooting at a college campus. The personal trauma I choose is a car accident with a family of four which leaves the father dead, but the mother and two children survive.
Potential Effects on Survivors: For the survivors of the campus shooting this event may be very traumatizing. A number of survivors may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Human-caused mass disasters can leave survivors felling vulnerable and questioning their safety in the world. (Shallcross, 2012). The surviving auto accident family members left without a husband and father are going to have to deal with grief and loss. The wife may need to cope with overwhelming responsibility and the children may feel anger and a sense of abandonment.
Potential Effects on First Responders: One possible effect on first responders to the scene of both the campus shooting and the family auto accident may be Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). STS presents itself much like PTSD and is caused by viewing others suffer trauma (Baird & Kracen, 2006). The first responders at both trauma sites can be effected greatly even if only at the scene for a short time. According to Baird & Kracen (2006) "the precipitating experience(s) of the helper can be of quite short duration" (p. 182).
Counselors Role in Treating the Survivors and First Responders I believe that the counselors who treat the survivors of both these traumatic situations would have to approach them much differently. With survivors of the campus shooting, a counselor may work to get them through the initial shock of their experience. The counselor may also work on restoring the survivors view of the world as being a safe place. The counselor who treats the family who lost their father in an auto accident has to help them not only get over the initial shock of their trauma, but help them establish a new life. These survivors need help through the beginning stages of loss and grief and continued therapy while they adapt to their new normal. However, I believe that since both scenarios are traumatic and the first responders of each will be at the scene a short period of time, both will show similar symptoms and be able to be counseled in relatively the same way.
How a mental health counselor could develop VT or STS: Both traumatic events can lead a counselor to develop either STS (Secondary Traumatic Stress) or VT (Vicarious Trauma). I believe the counselor working with survivors of the campus shooting may more likely acquire STS, while the counselor working with the auto accident family may more likely develop VT. The family may need long term counseling, causing the counselor to re-live this trauma multiple times manifesting itself into Vicarious Trauma. Counseling the mass shooting victims likely will be over a shorter time period.
Strategies for mitigating or addressing VT and STS: Self care is a key component for a counselor to avoid VT or STS. Counselors should take care of their health, sleep regularly, exercise, and find ways to reduce stress. Additional steps counselors can take to avoid STS and VT are to manage their case load, utilize peer supervision, rely on agency tools, and to get additional education and training (Trippany, Kress, & Wilcoxon, 2004).

Baird, K., & Kracen, A. C. (2006). Vicarious traumatization and secondary traumatic stress: A research synthesis. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 19(2), 181–188. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
Trippany, R. L., White Kress, V. E., & Wilcoxon, S. A. (2004). Preventing vicarious trauma: What counselors should know when working with trauma survivors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(1), 31-37. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
Shallcross, L. (2012, February). A calming presence. Counseling Today. Retrieved from

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