MODULE FOUR | Understanding and Addressing Vicarious Trauma

PART EIGHT | Making a vicarious trauma action plan

You probably wouldn’t set out to help the people you serve without a plan. Why not give yourself the benefit of that same approach? This exercise can be completed in 15 minutes, or you can spend more time on it. We strongly recommend that you repeat it at least every couple of months.

  1. List your important risk factors for vicarious trauma. These are things that get in the way of you helping others. They come from three main areas:
    • From personal factors (e.g., past and current stress in your life)
    • From your situation (e.g., work-related factors)
    • From the cultural context (e.g., discrimination and attitudes of intolerance)
  2. List any signs or symptoms of vicarious trauma that you are experiencing. Think about the following areas:
    • Physical
    • Psychological
    • Behavior and relationships
    • Worldview or frame of reference (spirituality, identity, and beliefs)
  3. What are things that you can do to cope better with these symptoms? (Hint: Think about how you can counteract your risk factors, and remember that good coping strategies for vicarious trauma are things that help you take care of yourself – especially things that help you escape, rest, and play.) How can you take care of yourself in the following areas:
    • Physical
    • Mental and emotional
    • Behavior and relationships
    • At work
  4. What steps can you take that can help you transform your vicarious trauma on a deeper level? (Hint: remember that transforming vicarious trauma means identifying ways to nurture a sense of meaning and hope).
    • Outside work
    • During work
  5. Pick two things you have listed in response to questions 3 or 4, and think about how you will put those into practice this week. Set two specific, realistic, goals by completing the sentence below (Hint: think about how, when, and where you achieve these goals and put that in your answer too): This week I will ______________________ to help prevent or manage vicarious trauma.
  6. What obstacles might get in the way of you doing the two things you identified in item 5, above?
  7. What might you to do overcome the obstacles listed above? What will support you in accomplishing your goals (Hint: think about people who can support you and how they might encourage you.)
© Headington Institute 2008