The Effects of Trauma on Clients and Mental Health CounselorsDawn LahmonWalden UniversityThe Effects of Trauma on Clients and Mental Health CounselorsCatastrophe and violence in today’s society continues to escalate. These perpetual traumatizing events leave humanity in a position of learning how to cope in the aftermath. Some individuals will naturally cope without reaching out for assistance while others will require the support of counseling to manage and recover. A counselor providing crisis counseling services must be educated in traumatology (Shallcross, 2012) and be aware of the potential of personal and professional risks.
Natural Disaster or Human-made CrisisOn October 1, 2017, at a music festival in the city of Las Vegas, 22,000 people fell victim to a mass shooter, Stephen Paddock. Mr. Paddock, stocked with multiple high-intensity automatic weapons, broke a window in his hotel room on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay and opened fire on to the crowd. As a result of this event 58 people died and 851 were physically injured.
Mr. Paddock lost his life to suicide prior to the arrival of law enforcement. These survivors have this horrific event in common, left to find ways to cope with the death and fear they encountered. Effects on Survivors and First RespondersTraumatic events have a psychological impact on direct victims but this impact also reaches out to the members of professional responding agencies, such as Emergency Medical Services, Firefighters and Law Enforcement Officers. Responding agencies often suffer from secondary traumatic stress (STS), similar to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), defined as mental health suffering from the exposure to the victims (Baird & Kracen, 2006).Responding professionals generally experience, if any, a shorter duration of signs and symptoms when struggling with effects from a traumatic event (Baird & Kracen, 2006) but this should not diminish the effects as generally their stressors are cumulative in nature. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a technique utilized for immediate interventional counseling for emergency response professionals (Sattler, Boyd, & Kirsch, 2014). Emergency Responders may also fall victim to vicarious trauma (Trippany, White Kress, & Wilcox, 2004).
Regardless of the victimization, primary or secondary, both suffer from similar effects of acute trauma. The initial counseling approach would be similar with case conceptualization developing from the patient interview (Erford, 2018). Regardless of the consistency in personal exposure of the event, each individual’s perception may differ tremendously.Personal Trauma-Causing CrisisImagine, for a minute, you are a Paramedic working for an emergency response service.
You are alerted to respond to a female victim of a probable sexual assault. Arriving on scene you find a pretty young woman, estimated at 24 years old, sitting in her bedroom. You noted she smells of alcohol, has slurring of speech, and is emotionally unstable. She is not able to tell you where she is, but she does share that she was sexually assaulted by a male who she met at a bar.
Effects on Survivors and First RespondersAs a Paramedic, I have experienced this exact scenario. The approach taken with this patient situation, known as Psychological First Aid (PFS), is vastly different than an approach utilized in a medical emergency, which requires fast decisions and rapid transportation (Shallcross, 2012). Providing the victim with the sense of safety is an imperative initial step. During the transport to the hospital ongoing support and safety is offered without attempts to gain knowledge of the event, unless the patient chooses to share.The call is over, the ambulance is clean, and back in service, but you have not mentally left the victimized patient. Despite how many patients you see in this circumstance, compassion and empathy take hold. You hold a feeling of guilt for having personal struggles associated with someone else’s victimization but that does not reduce its impact.
This scenario is an example of STS (Baird & Kracen, 2006).Vicarious Trauma (VT) and/or Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Mental health counselors run the risk of experiencing vicarious trauma (VT) or secondary traumatic stress (STS) much in the same way as emergency responders. Having forethought into the risks of crisis counseling is important as it allows the counselor to proactively arm themselves against the potential effects. Incorporating daily defense mechanisms provides a counselor a shield from VT and STS. Dr. Ruth Moore (Laureate, 2012) suggests physical exercise as a way to decompress following a stressful day. Additionally, she receives regularly scheduled massages.
However, I feel her most important suggestion to mitigate VT is limiting severe cases and incorporation of methodical scheduling. ConclusionRegardless of primary or secondary victimization the psychological impact of a traumatic event can have long term detrimental effects. Appropriate interventions provide immediate security and aid in long-term successful recovery. A counselor implementing interventions according to best practice and proper self-awareness assists them to provide services acutely necessary to an individual’s mental health recovery process. Additionally, a counselor must practice self-awareness and wellness to combat the detrimental effects when specializing in crisis counseling.ReferencesBaird, K., & Kracen, A.
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