From Vicarious Trauma to Resilience and Resistance: Conceptualising the Personal and Political Benefits of Trauma Work
There is growing commitment to trauma-informed practice and increased recognition of risks associated with this work. Research with trauma professionals has explored and measured impacts such as vicarious trauma, burnout, compassion fatigue and moral injury. However, the benefits of working with trauma-affected clients are under-studied, and a scholarly focus on the risk of trauma work to professionals can overlook the sustaining and enriching dimensions of this work.
This workshop draws on interviews with sixty-three welfare, health and legal professionals in Australia to consider the salutogenic dynamics of work with women with experiences of complex trauma and dissociation. The rewards of trauma work have been documented in the vicarious resilience literature, which explains how trauma workers are inspired by and learn from their clients. Participants in our study experienced such benefits. However, they also described what we term “vicarious resistance”. Resistance is a key concept in radical social work tradition.
Our research suggests that, for experienced complex trauma workers, effective practice is often underpinned by an ethics of care that counters resource-constrained and transactional health service models. Participants described a relational model of trauma practice that facilitates personal growth for themselves and their clients. They situated the negative effects of trauma work within a posture of authenticity and compassion connected to the meaningfulness of their work with trauma-affected people. We suggest that trauma professionals revaluing of care labour is a form of vicarious resistance, complicating the dichotomy of vicarious trauma and vicarious resilience, and bringing the social and political aspects of trauma practice into view.
In this workshop, we will present our findings and then invite participants to consider and contribute their own thoughts about the enriching and meaningful dimensions of their trauma practice, and whether the concept of “vicarious resistance” helps to articulate aspects of their professional experience.
At the conclusion of this presentation, participants will be able to:
- Identity the differences between vicarious trauma, vicarious resilience and vicarious resistance
- Explain what vicarious resistance is and its relationship to social and service inequalities
- Apply these concepts to their own professional experiences
- Analyse the structural obstacles to effective trauma practice
- Plan to address and prevent vicarious trauma and burnout and maximise the benefits of engaging in trauma practice
Presenter: Michael Salter PhD
Presenter Bio: Dr Michael Salter is a Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of New South Wales. He is an internationally recognised expert in the study of child abuse, violence against women and complex trauma. His published work includes the books Organised Sexual Abuse (2013, Routledge) and Crime, Justice and Social Media (2017, Routledge) and over fifty papers in international journals and edited collections. His research engages with policy and practice across multiple sectors, including mental health, social work, law enforcement and internet regulation.
Dr Salter is the President of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) where he has served on the Board of Directors since 2018. He is the Chair of the Grace Tame Foundation, and he sits on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse Review and the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation.
Dr Salter is a member of a number of advisory groups, including the Advisory Group of the National Plan To Prevent Violence Against Women and Their Children, the Expert Advisory Group of the eSafety Commissioner, and the Advisory Council of White Ribbon Australia. Current projects include a study of legal and practice responses to the intersections of domestic violence and child sexual abuse, a study of trauma-informed responses for sexual violence survivors, and a national survey of LGBTIQ+ experiences of sexual violence.
Presenter: Delanie Woodlock, PhD
Presenter Bio: Delanie is a Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation and is currently examining the use of technology by victim/survivors of domestic violence to access justice. Delanie has conducted pioneering research into the role of technology in domestic and family violence. Starting with a small community grant in 2012 when working at the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV), she conducted a world-first study on technology-facilitated abuse and domestic violence. Delanie's research has guided and informed government policymaking and strategic directions in Australia. Including the 2016 Victorian Royal Commission to Family Violence Final Report and Recommendations, shaping findings and recommendations made on technology-facilitated abuse. Her research is cited as key literature in the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book and The Judicial College of Victoria Family Violence Bench Book.
Delanie has worked in the area of domestic violence and sexual assault since 2007, providing direct support and referral to victim/survivors, as well as conducting community research. Alongside her research on the use of technology in domestic violence, she has also focused on violence against women with disabilities (including her work with Associate Professor Bridget Harris on an eSafety funded project on technology-facilitated abuse of women with cognitive and intellectual disabilities and research with Women with Disabilities Victoria), the medicalisation of women’s trauma, and violence against women in rural and regional Australia (including an Australian Institute of Criminology funded project with Associate Professor Bridget Harris on technology-facilitated abuse of women in rural and regional Australia).
Delanie continues to expand the field of technology-facilitated abuse through her recent research on child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as a specific form of gendered violence, including her work evaluating PartnerSPEAK and an Australian Institute of Criminology funded project with Associate Professor Michael Salter on the crossover between CSAM offending and coercive control. Her research work has broadened the understandings of theoretical concepts in violence against women, such as coercive control, linking the use of technology to tactics used by perpetrators to entrap women and children.
Delanie also has provided support and training to academics and students on minimising the risks of vicarious trauma, particularly concerning the impacts of researching domestic and sexual violence.
- 1.50 APAThe International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
- 1.50 ASWB ACEThe International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 1.50 continuing education credits.
- 1.50 ISSTD Certificate ProgramThis program is eligible for 1.50 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.