Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Effects of Trauma on Clients and Mental Health Counselors

            It seems over the past decade there have been more acts of violence than in previous times.  This causes an increase in traumatic events that Americans are facing which in turn creates fears of the event reoccuring, or feelings of anxiety, depression over the event(s) (Bell, Friel, & Stacher, 2007).  Traumas have various effects on survivors, first responders, and even those who come to lend aid.  There are specific roles that a counselor needs to use when dealing with survivors and first responders.  They can fall into the same category, but they are different.  Lastly, it is important that mental health counselors do not devleop VT or STS when embarking on traumas and learn ways to counteract taking on a clients burden. 
Two traumatic events
Colorado Shooting
            Most humans have an understandable fear of Friday the 13th, but some Aurora dwellers might develop a fear of Friday the 20th.  Mid summer at opening night of Batman: Dark Night Rises, a crazed gunman came through the emergency exit door and opened fire on innocent and unexpected movie goers (Pearson, 2012).  Killing twelve and injuring fifty-eight others. 
Sandy Hook Elementary
             Fear and trauma can easily be addressed when looking at the Sandy Hook Elementay shooting that occurred in December.  Innocent children were learning ABC’s and 1,2,3’s while another crazed gunman decided to open fire on the school shooting twenty seven in attendance twenty of them being elementary students under the age of eight  (CNN, 2012).
Effects on Survivors and First Responders
            The two events that have been described certainly have an impact on survivors, and first responders.  Survivors of the Colorado Shootings all fifty-eight of them have the potential to develop PTSD.  First responders can be impacted as well because they arrive first to see the carnage that has befallen those simply wanting to see a movie on opening night, innocently enough not thinking that movie will forever impact their lives. 
            First responders of Sandy Hook Elementary could be deeply impacted not because they have not seen an incident like this, but rather because it involved innocent children.  CNN reported that this was the deadliest school massacre since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007  (CNN, 2012).  The survivors are the parents of those youngsters, who have to wake up every morning and not make lunches, or help with algebra; the trauma from that experience will last indefinably, learning coping mechanisms is something a counselor can offer both first responders and survivors.
            Symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fear, PTSD, and vulnerability are all results of traumatic events, disasters or crises  (Bell, Friel, & Stacher, 2007).  A study was conduted by Bell, Friel, and Stacher explaining that 30 to 40% of any disaster survivor will experince some level of PTSD for a year after the event  (Bell, Friel, & Stacher, 2007),  on the same note, 10-20% first responders, and only 5-15% of those indirectly effected by the incident will be effected  (Bell, Friel, & Stacher, 2007).   The article goes on to explain that children are more suseptable to PTSD because children look to adults for guidance, and if they see or feel they are suffering they will dewell on the disaster  (Bell, Friel, & Stacher, 2007). 
The Counselor’s Role
            A trained professional counselor has the ability to understand the psychological effects of any disaster, monitor the long-term effects of the trauma in a given community, and provide crisis intervention  (Dingman & Ginter, 1995).  As the traumas continue to occur through out the world the media will cover them and show scenes directly from the site and spare no expense at what harm it could be causing its viewers.  Counsleing needs to be available for workers of the disasters aas well as the resucers. 
            After the September attacks in 2001, cousnelors thought coping sills that helped deal with anxiety and stress.  This created a normmilization when it came to emotions and created sheltered situations for those effected by the worlds largest act of terror  (Baldwin, 2012),  (Dingman & Ginter, 1995). Offering these kinds of approaches, counselors are able to aid in a survivor and first responder’s mental health.  A counselor can be invited to prepare for inpending catastrophic relief. 
Vicarious Trauma and or Secodary Trauma Stress
            Based on research, both secondary trauma stress (STS) and vicarious trauma (VT) have similar psychological concept.  "The cumulative transformative effects upon therapists resulting from empathic engagement with traumatized clients" is how Harrison and Westwood (2009, p.203) translate McCann and Pearlman’s definition.  The vicarious trauma definition to Biard and Kracen is "result of exposure to graphic and/or traumatic material", (2006 p.182).  Counselors that are in contact with clients who have been traumatized have the capability to indirectly experience the same trauma as the clients.  (Harrison & Westwood, 2009; Baird & Kracen, 2006).  Symptoms of secondary trauma stress can be viewed either directly or indirectly to a given traumatic event which has the potential to produce symptoms similar to PTSD. 
            A strategy that could possibly aid a clinician in stearing clear of potential vicarious traumas or secondary trauma stress would be awareness because they are normal and treatable  (Trippany, Wilcoxon, and White-Cress, 2004).  Emplamenting self-care and self awareness activities such as support groups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can “minimizing potential ethical and interpersonal difficulties" (Trippany, Wilcoxon, and White-Cress 2004, p. 36).  One can only stress awareness as a way to mitigate vicarious trauma and secondary trauma stress, understanding how to defuse is up to each clinician, what works for one may not work for another and so on. 
            In trauma and crisis there is a potential for all counselors to live the trauma or crisis of a client.     In today’s society with wars and other issues that affect the world, counselors have vicarious trauma or secondary trauma stress because the interactions with clients are repetitive.  The role of the counselor is to help survivors and first responders deal with the on slot of issues one could encounter, so being able to help clients incorporate ways of coping will help ease the pain from the crisis of events such as the Colorado massacre or the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.  As counselors continue to see patients who are suffering, it is important to recognize when vicarious trauma or secondary trauma stress are occurring and take time to not be sucked in to living the trauma with the client. 

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