Secondary stressors and counselling within social work practice following disaster



Disaster, secondary stressors, insurance, counselling, wellbeing, social work


INTRODUCTION: This paper is the second of two (Briggs et al., 2023) detailing the outcome of a mixed-method study examining the mental health and wellbeing of a randomised sub-sample of 60 clients who attended the Canterbury Charity Hospital Trust Counselling Service following the earthquake that struck Christchurch on 22 February 2011.

METHODS: This paper focuses on the results from semi-structured interviews with the study participants. Open-ended questions explored: 1) secondary stressors that impacted participant wellbeing; and 2) experiences of counselling at the CCHT.

FINDINGS: The findings highlight several secondary stressors for participants including practical and financial assistance, social contacts, and disrupted employment and education, all of which continued to impact on their wellbeing. The experience of counselling varied with mixed views on its value, the skills of the counsellors, and the benefit of having counselling with a practitioner who had also experienced the traumatic event.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, the initial counselling was viewed as a positive contributor to the participants’ recovery, however practitioners, including social workers who offer counselling services, must be mindful of shared trauma, demonstrate emotional regulation, and have relevant knowledge and strategies for a range of client interactions. Continuing professional education, such as webinars and involvement in communities of practice on post-disaster social work practice, are recommended so social workers can better understand the longer-term impacts of disasters and equip themselves for future disaster-related practice.


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How to Cite

Hay, K., Briggs, L., & Bagshaw, S. (2024). Secondary stressors and counselling within social work practice following disaster. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 36(1), 19–31. Retrieved from



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