Vicarious trauma: The psychological impact of working with survivors of trauma for South African psychologists
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Traumatic events are highly prevalent in South African society and psychologists who work with survivors of trauma have been identified as particularly at risk of being adversely affected by their work, and experiencing vicarious trauma . This study aimed to explore the experiences of a group of South African psychologists who work predominantly with trauma survivors. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with six psychologists (females = 67%). The predominant type of trauma encountered by participants in clinical practice was interpersonal trauma in the form of physical and sexual abuse (83%). Data were analysed using thematic analysis . All participants reported symptoms of vicarious trauma including disruption in cognitive schemas, symptoms characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder, and somatic symptoms. Participants also reported vicarious post-traumatic growth including an enhanced sense of interpersonal connectedness and positive changes in their philosophy of life and self-perceptions. The findings serve to sensitise psychologists to the impact of working with trauma survivors so as to enhance the efficiency of psychological service delivery to traumatised populations.