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Trauma therapy and the effects on the therapist

By Victoria Hancock


The aim of this thesis was to explore the psychological impact of trauma work on clinical psychologists. The literature review considers the plethora of terms used to describe this phenomenon in order to inform future research and clarify previous studies' findings. It draws out the key symptoms, variables, criteria and underlying concepts of these terms. The main study reviews the empirical literature in order to inform the design of the study and explores a range of personal and professional factors that might be associated with trauma symptomatology in clinical psychologists. It was found that few clinical psychologists experienced significant trauma symptoms and that higher trauma symptoms were connected with higher caseloads of trauma clients, higher personal trauma history and, to a lesser extent, more disrupted cognitive schema. However, the assessment of the effects of trauma work as trauma symptoms might have contributed to these findings. Therefore, the brief paper explored participants' descriptions of emotional and cognitive reactions to a distressing or traumatic event. Participants described a wide variety of reactions and that these appeared to change over time. The study concluded that more inclusive measures should be used to assess the psychological effects of working with trauma. A variety of issues arose during the course of this research concerning the research process and the choice of methodology. These are discussed in the research review along with an account of the personal impact and wider issues that this study provoked

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