Working with refugee survivors of torture and trauma : an opportunity for vicarious posttraumatic growth

Barrington, Allysa J. & Shakespeare-Finch, Jane E. (2013) Working with refugee survivors of torture and trauma : an opportunity for vicarious posttraumatic growth. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 26(1), pp. 89-105.

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Clinical work with people who have survived trauma carries a risk of vicarious traumatisation for the service provider, but also the potential for vicarious posttraumatic growth. Despite growing interest in this area, the effects of working with survivors of refugee-related trauma have remained relatively unexplored. The aim of the current study was to examine the lived experiences of people working on a daily basis with survivors of torture and trauma who had sought refuge in Australia. Seventeen clinical, administrative, and managerial staff from a not-for-profit organisation participated in a semi-structured interview that was later analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. Analysis of the data demonstrated that the entire sample reported symptoms of vicarious trauma (e.g., strong emotional reactions, intrusive images, shattering of existing beliefs) as well as vicarious posttraumatic growth (e.g., forming new relationships, increased self-understanding, greater appreciation of life). Moreover, effortful meaning making processes appeared to facilitate such positive changes. Reduction in the risks associated with this work, enhancement of clinician well-being, and improvement of therapeutic outcomes is a shared responsibility of the organisation and clinician. Without negating the distress of trauma work, clinicians are encouraged to more deeply consider the unique positive outcomes that supporting survivors can provide.

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ID Code: 58188
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: trauma, refugee, vicarious trauma, vicarious posttraumatic growth, meaning making
DOI: 10.1080/09515070.2012.727553
ISSN: 1469-3674
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright Statement: This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in the Counselling Psychology Quarterly © 2013 [copyright Taylor & Francis]; Counselling Psychology Quarterly is available online at:
Deposited On: 13 Mar 2013 23:04
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2013 16:01

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