Those of us who work with, and alongside, those who have experienced trauma will often notice that we too are struggling with inexplicable symptoms. Headaches, tiredness, irritability, prone to outburst of anger and or crying, feelings of guilt, thinking about our clients disproportionately, increasing cynicism and loss of faith, staying busy and overworking, avoidance and detachment. This list is not exhaustive, vicarious trauma will affect each of us in very individual ways, often without us being fully aware of what it is that is going on for us.
We can describe vicarious trauma as burn out, compassion fatigue or secondary trauma and it can and does impact our lives in and out of work. Professionals who work with trauma can be more susceptible to the symptoms of vicarious trauma if they have survived their own personal trauma and how we manage those symptoms can be dependent on what training we have undergone (Adam and Riggs 2008).
If we hear stories of unimaginable cruelty and of near-death experiences as part of our everyday routine, it will in one way or another have an impact on us. Vicarious trauma like direct trauma, however, can be managed. Researchers Pearlman and Saakvtine (1995) conclude that specific trauma training and increased supervision and support is essential ( in varying degrees and depending on individuals experience in working with and own personal exposure, to trauma) for professionals working with traumatised clients.