Does helping hurt the helper? – An investigation into the impacts of vicarious traumatisation on social work practitioners in Hawke’s Bay, Aotearoa New Zealand

Samantha Smith, Sue Hanna

Abstract


INTRODUCTION: This article is based on the findings of a Bachelor of Social Work Honours student research project investigating the impacts of vicarious traumatisation (VT) on a small sample of frontline social work practitioners in the Hawke’s Bay region of Aotearoa New Zealand.

METHOD: Semi-structured, one-to-one interviews with the four participants were used to collect the data and the interviews took place in 2019. A thematic analysis approach was applied to identify key themes within and across the data set.

FINDINGS: Three of the four social workers had experienced VT resulting from their work with clients with histories of trauma. Participants, however, were also able to identify a range of self- care management strategies they utilised to support and enhance their health and wellbeing. In addition, several important organisational supports were also identified. These included a workplace culture that recognised VT, clinical supervision, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services and supportive supervisors and managers.

IMPLICATIONS: The study demonstrates that VT and its associated impacts on social workers are important issues requiring ongoing acknowledgement and research in the New Zealand social work context.


Keywords


Vicarious trauma; secondary trauma; burn out; stress; self-care; social work

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol33iss3id892

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