VitalHearts | The Resiliency Training Initiative, a Denver, Colorado Trauma Training Center has as its mission caring for care-providers. Henry Tobey, Ph.D., VitalHearts' founder, was selected in 1998 by the US Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime to develop a program to respond to the secondary traumatic consequences of victim service work. That program, the Vicarious Trauma Training (1999), represented the first effort by the Justice Department to address this problem which affects all who work in victim service professions. Following the federal grant, Dr. Tobey, developed a more comprehensive program, the Secondary Trauma Resiliency Training. This new training serves a broader population. It is available to those who work with traumatized individuals regardless of the cause of trauma.
The deep exposure to all the suffering afflicting their patients or clients multiplied case after case, has the likely effect of traumatizing care-providers. Of course, unlike the primary sufferers of trauma, it is not direct. Care providers are not bloodied, nor do they lose loved ones, but instead they suffer an accretion of exposure to the traumas, many of them violent or life-threatening, suffered by those they treat. That, in turn, diminishes care provider effectiveness, creates compassion fatigue, and shortens their tenure. It is important to acknowledge the great emotional rewards of this work. That is the reason it is so worth treating vicarious trauma rather than just accepting the departure of care-providers.
The healers need healing. Secondary or Vicarious Trauma can profoundly impact professionals through emotional depletion, depression and anxiety, a sense of isolation or helplessness, anger, irritability, and cynicism. These are not problems which overtake less competent care providers. It is, ironically, those with the greatest capacity for feeling and expressing empathy who are most at risk for secondary trauma.