Module 2: Self-Care for Professionals who Work with Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Introduction

The purpose of this module is to bring participants’ attention to the potential for secondary traumatic stress (aka vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue). We offer this material at the beginning of the training so that participants understand the importance of recognizing the potential for secondary traumatic stress early on when working with survivors/victims of gender-based violence, especially those with complex mental health and substance use concerns. Recognizing secondary traumatic stress and developing self-care strategies is a fundamental aspect of protecting the health and wellbeing of professionals working in the gender-based violence field. Additionally, having a healthy workplace will also ensure that survivors/victims and their families will receive the best possible care from those who are committed to helping them.

Learning Objectives (i.e., after this module, you should be able to:)

  1. To explain how professionals working with survivors/victims of gender-based violence may be at risk of secondary traumatic stress
  2. To define secondary traumatic stress
  3. To recognize signs and symptoms, including the physiological and psychological effects of secondary traumatic stress
  4. To articulate the importance of self-care for professionals who work with survivors/victims of gender-based violence
  5. To identify individual risk and protective factors
  6. To identify organizational risk and protective factors
  7. To learn adaptive strategies (both at the individual and organizational levels) to prevent, reduce, and/or mitigate secondary traumatic stress
  8. To explain compassion satisfaction/vicarious resilience and how it can serve as a positive framework when working with survivors/victims of gender-based violence

Guide to the Readings

The first reading is an online newsletter produced by the Violence Against Women Learning Network (Western University, London, ON) and examines vicarious trauma, vicarious resilience, and the need to advocate for structural changes in the gender-based violence sector. The authors provide an overview of vicarious trauma and vicarious resilience; presents the various systemic, organizational, and individual factors that can influence vicarious trauma; discusses the role of organizations in mitigating the risks for vicarious trauma; and offers tangible strategies for how organizations can promote the wellbeing of professionals working in the gender-based violence field. The last two readings offer tips and tools for recognizing signs of secondary traumatic stress in ourselves – one of the first things we must do when managing our own health and wellbeing.

How to Proceed

Once you complete all six steps, you can proceed to Module 3.