What is Vicarious Trauma?

Vicarious Trauma (VT) is the negative impact on a helper as a result of engaging with trauma information, such as reading, hearing, and learning about traumatic situations directly or indirectly.

Repeated exposure to traumatic material can cause a shift in the way that helpers perceive themselves, others and the world, and includes disruptions to their identity, memory and belief systems.

VT can be viewed as an occupational hazard of those who help people who have experienced trauma. People working in health and welfare sector often effected by VT, but it can also impact many other occupations.

VT is also known as Secondary Traumatic Stress or Compassion Fatigue.

What does Vicarious Trauma look like?

Symptoms can include:

What are the risk factors for Vicarious Trauma?

How can Vicarious Trauma be prevented?

Awareness: Be attuned to your needs, limits, emotions and resources.
Balance: Seek balance among life activities and within yourself.
Connection: To yourself, to others and to something larger.

How can Vicarious Trauma be addressed?

Self-Care: Find balance, reconnect with your body (e.g. exercise, dance, massage), set limits, practice healthy habits (e.g. sleep and eat well), make connection a priority.
Self-nurturance: Seek gentleness, focus on pleasure and comfort, relax, play, laugh, and love.
Escape: Get away from your work, engage in fantasy, and get away from painful feelings.
Seek help: From support networks, supervisors, or your EAP.

If you would like to address your own experience of VT, or learn more about supporting others who have experienced VT, our EAP clinicians can help.
To make an EAP appointment, contact our team (24 hours, 7 days a week) or make an online booking.

More resources for you

In Culture, Employees, Leaders, Mental health

How might we prepare for 2022?

As we move beyond the blur of the past two years – first bush fires, then a pandemic – a new year is already off and racing. How can we prepare for the year ahead?

Read more
In Culture, Employees, Leaders, Mental health

Why we need to talk about moral injury at work

Moral injury in the workplace can negatively impact our psychological wellbeing and mental health. Here’s why it matters.

Read more
In Employees, Leaders, Mental health, Wellbeing

Returning to the workplace… again

When it comes to returning to work, we’re all being asked to adjust to a new normal again. How can we help ourselves and those around us to ease back into the workplace?

Read more