vicarious trauma

Art Therapy support for vicarious trauma: support for social workers


As adults we sometimes forget about taking time to pause and take care of ourselves. This can especially be true for professionals such as social workers who work to tend to other people’s needs. The amount of stress and trauma that the person is exposed to for a prolonged period of time can have a serious impact on the person’s mind, body and their overall wellness.

Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious trauma is a term used to describe a person who is traumatized by witnessing or becoming aware of the trauma of another person. For example, social workers who work in child welfare, this might look like hearing stories of people who have gone through traumatic experiences, reading file notes, and or working with them. Often times in literature, the word vicarious trauma is replaced with words such as compassion fatigue and burnout. Over time, being exposed to high stress and traumatic cases can have a negative impact on wellbeing. It is important to be aware of the signals that our bodies send us and to find healthy ways to tend to those needs to reduce the negative effects.

Art Therapy and Self Care for Caring Professionals

Art therapy can be beneficial for adults as a means of self care, especially for professionals working in high stress environments. Engaging in the process of making something, while talking as well, can provide a client opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of their feelings, reflect on what might be going on for them internally, and feel supported, as they work out how they would like to shift their thoughts and feelings to manage more adaptively. With no prior art making knowledge necessary, clients have the opportunity to tell their unique stories in a safe inviting confidential space. The art therapy process can allow a caring professional to take the time to pause and pay attention to their needs, while honouring all that they give to the children, youth and families they serve.

Art as Therapy therapists are Registered Psychotherapists, psychotherapy sessions are covered by most extended health benefit programs.

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