Lived experiences of trauma workers: Costs and rewards of caring
Joshi, Tanisha Ketan
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Trauma therapists are impacted by the work they do in unique ways. The literature over the past century focused itself on the negative effects of working with survivors of trauma, while there has been a surge in exploring the positive effects of working with this population more recently. The current study is a qualitative exploration which attempts to move away from the dichotomy of negative and positive consequences of doing trauma work; but rather, it explores the holistic lived experiences of trauma therapists working with survivors. The study aims to provide a context within which the consequences are experienced. Twelve master's and doctoral level therapists who work almost exclusively with survivors of manmade traumas participated in semi-structured interviews regarding their experiences of being trauma workers. The interview transcripts were analyzed for themes and the results were discussed. The most significant finding of this study is that trauma work tends to be transformative in nature and the process of adapting to this transformation forms the essence of trauma work. The study proposes that the positive and negative consequences of doing trauma work are two sides of the same coin and are experienced together within a greater context of active adaptation to the changes that come with doing trauma work. Although doing trauma work may come with the possibility of experiencing negative effects, it also comes with the potential for several positive, growth oriented effects which this study highlights and supports. The study also found support for the importance of self-care in doing trauma work. Implications for practice, limitations of the current study, and directions for future research are discussed.