The Use of Coping Strategies by Psychologists to Prevent Vicarious Traumatisation
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AbstractThe purpose of this study was to investigate the coping strategies used by psychologists working within the demanding field of trauma psychology. The research process seeks to investigate whether post session distress remains or whether it may be effectively processed. Are there strategies that psychologists use that stand out as major components in removing residue material? Central to this study was the requirement to obtain a rich account of the participants’ experiences in order to elucidate the depth of meaning behind their statements. To achieve this aim the phenomenological method chosen was the van Kamm method adapted by Moustakas (1994). Following careful ethical preparation, five consultant psychologists were recruited for the semi-structured interview process. The findings of the study indicate that the individuals concerned use a range of unconscious and conscious coping strategies to process traumatic material. These were either positive or negative. A variety of physical, emotional and cognitive strategies were used. The choice of therapeutic modality influenced processing strategy. A major finding of the study was the use of peer supervision as a first line coping strategy. Participants reported that there were often inadequate resources allocated for this. Peer supervision is helpful because the shared experience of working with traumatic material provides a normalising function. Traditional one to one supervision was generally viewed as unhelpful and often perceived as exacerbating the distress of participants. Findings indicate that despite the use of coping strategies, residue material often remains. Participants did express positive effects of working with trauma but these coexisted with lasting negative attribution changes. This research has implications for the training of psychologists, particularly in the development of coping strategies both within supervision and as a method of self-supervision. It also raises the question as to whether trauma work should be solely provided by teams.
TypeThesis or dissertation