What is Vicarious Trauma?
GoodTherapy defines vicarious trauma as “indirect exposure to a traumatic event through firsthand account or narrative of that event.” While emergency responders, healthcare workers, and people in law enforcement are at greatest risk of vicarious trauma, the condition can affect anyone who has a “significant relationship with a survivor of trauma,” according to the site.
In the course of their work, therapists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals must ask patients to recount the traumatic events that caused their injuries. Hearing these accounts often evokes in caregivers a similar but muted response to the trauma that the patient experienced. The vicarious trauma they feel can cause the caregiver’s worldview to shift; it may also lead to “compassion fatigue” and burnout.
Compassion fatigue occurs when caregivers spend so much time assisting victims of trauma that they have no time to care for themselves. It causes physical and emotional exhaustion, but, unlike vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue doesn’t cause symptoms of trauma or a negative change in a person’s worldview.
To learn more, check out this guide "Vicarious Trauma: Information, Prevention and Resources" created by Advent Health University Online.