Here are some of the physical symptoms of secondary trauma…
Vicarious trauma can feel like moral injury, but it is different.
Vicarious trauma is often confused with controlled empathy, so it might be useful if we explore it here to notice the difference.
This month we are looking into the cost of working in carrying professions: the impact of client’s trauma on our health.
Emotional regulation – we all have feelings; those feelings are fleeting, and they ARE valid – no one can question your individual emotional experience – it might be helpful to remind people about this; validate all their emotions, educate them about how emotions are made; model connecting with and expressing a wide range of feelings but also choices around them – we can struggle, subconsciously shut down to stay safe and that’s OK.
xperiences of triggers and build our awareness of how we can cope with them when they occur; so it can be helpful to provide some psycho-education (explain what triggers are, normalise strong reactions); explore past coping mechanisms and make flexible plans for new triggers; build a safety net/tribe – people who are available to help; practice actually accessing, asking for help (people might not know how to do that).
Boundaries – traumatised people may have challenges with saying no and not even realise how they put themselves at risk, so it may help if they learn to discriminate, judge and regain the sense of their agency, map out their circle of safety; talking about self-care might be a good starting point to setting boundaries (“What do YOU need?”)
What’s the difference between coaching and counselling – my clients often ask. Coaching and counselling can feel similar on paper; however, the two services I provide are different. Let’s have a look at the main differences between coaching and counselling.
The window of tolerance (a zone of emotional arousal in which we can function most effectively and safely) – it’s that margin of emotional temperature where you feel emotionally ok, low or high but not out of control; this window of tolerance can be smaller after a traumatic experience but it can be expanded in therapy; outside of the window of tolerance clients can present hyperaroused (on edge, angry, anxious) or hypoaroused (numb, not present, disconnected). So it helps to accept those emotional boundaries, connect with the person, listen carefully, make time to co-regulate with the client (pay attention to your feelings, ground yourself, your body will support this attunement).
Pacing – slow down, pace the conversation, monitor the intensity of emotions (imagine a thermometer of emotions and check with the person where they are on it and what they can do to keep that emotional temperature lower a bit); apply brakes and check-in (you can ask: “if you share this now, how will you feel later? is this too much to share right now?”)