Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Family Health Center of Worcester (Mass.), Secondary traumatic stress, Reslience (Personality trait), Psychotherapists-Mental health, Social work with immigrants, Refugees-Mental health services, Qualitative research, Vicarious traumatization, Vicarious resilience, Refugee


The purpose of this qualitative, descriptive study was to explore clinicians' experience of vicarious traumatization and/or vicarious resilience in working with refugee clients in order to gain a better understanding of vicarious trauma and the ways in which clinicians are effected by vicarious trauma. A second purpose of this study was to determine whether or not clinicians experience vicarious resilience in working with this client population, and what, if any, impact the vicarious resilience has on the clinician's treatment modalities, practice style, and personal life. Twelve face-to-face interviews were conducted at Family Health Center of Worcester with clinicians who had worked with refugee trauma survivors within the past 5 years. Narrative data was gathered that focused on the challenging personal and professional aspects of working with refugee clients, emotional and somatic effects of trauma, changes in personal and professional life, and experiences of overcoming adversity. One major finding had to do with the mutual experience of being emotionally triggered by their client's reported trauma and undergoing personal and professional changes in response to trauma. Another important finding was that all participants were able to identify intentional and successful ways of coping with the impact of trauma that ultimately may have allowed them to experience vicarious resilience. Overall, this study supports previous research, with the findings showing that clinicians may experience both vicarious trauma and vicarious resilience. With a widespread experience of vicarious growth and resilience across participants, this study calls attention to resiliency and the power it may hold in recovery and prevention of clinician burn out. It seems clear from this current study as well as within the reviewed literature that clinicians view refugees as strong, resilient, and able to overcome adversity. Previous research has focused on vicarious traumatization, which seems insufficient in explaining why many clinicians continue to work with this population. This study suggests that focusing on resilience and vicarious resilience can neutralize the arduous experiences of vicarious traumatization, as well as increase experiences of inspiration and motivation.




iii, 60 pages : color illustration. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 47-50)