Secondary Trauma

Secondary Trauma

is the emotional distress that happens when we hear about or witness another person's traumatic experience.   

First Responders (doctors, nurses, EMT, police, fire) are exposed to Secondary Trauma every day.  Teachers, Social Workers, Psychologists and other helping professions are also at great risk.  Soldiers in combat, who may not be directly injured, are often deeply affected if they witness their team members or civilians being hurt.

For families who experience domestic violence, witnessing a family member (often their mother or a sibling) being abused, can be just as traumatic as being directly attacked.

Although the risk is often minimized in educational programs or by organizations, Secondary Trauma in the healthcare workplace is very common and a major cause of BURNOUT.  But, as described in the Video, Burnout is something from which we can recover and which is preventible.

Video on Secondary Trauma  (8 minutes)  

Board Certified Integrative Medicine-Family Medicine physician and THEN Co-Founder, Dr. Audrey Stillerman discusses:

  • What is Secondary Trauma?
  • Why is the incidence of Secondary Trauma on the rise?
  • What can be done to prevent or recover?
  • The paramount importance of Reflective Practice, Mentoring, and Self-Care

Kuehan BM.  Trauma-Informed Care may ease patient fear, clinician burnout.  JAMA Network Online, January 2020.

Organizational Assessment:  Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organizational Assessment (STSI-OA). University of Kentucky Center on Trauma in Children.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network - Resources on Secondary Trauma 

Book:  Help for the Helper  by Babette Rothschild.  Understanding compassion fatigue and helpful tips about boundaries, self-care.


Video:  Beyond the Cliff

19 minute Video.  Author of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, gives a first-person report of the cumulative trauma from our own lives plus secondary trauma from service to others. Her compelling story is both funny and profound – as she describes how she literally found herself at the edge of a cliff – and her road back to health through Self Care.