Vicarious trauma is a term to describe the reaction of people helpers in hearing their client's trauma stories. Vicarious trauma changes the people helpers' view about themselves, others and the world. It alters the sense of security, ability to trust others, self-esteem, capacity for connection and ability to self-regulate.
The American Counselling Association described vicarious trauma as the counsellor's continuous emotional engagement with the client's traumatic material that creates cognitive distortions and changes in core belief systems within the counsellor. According to Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995), mental health professionals are at increased risk for experiencing the effects of vicarious trauma.
Also known as compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma differs from burnout. Vicarious trauma is a profound emotional and physical erosion that takes place when the people helpers are unable to refuel and regenerate. It interferes with their ability to enjoy daily living and connect with others. Burnout, on the other hand, refers to the exhaustion and disconnection that employees can experience when they feel overwhelmed, dissatisfied with their job, powerless and unappreciated. Burnout does not necessarily lead to the loss of ability to feel compassion for others.
If you are a people helper who feels that you are losing the empathy and care for your clients or/and patients, please seek help before it is too late. Your wellbeing is essential.