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Vicarious Trauma

Learn more about the impact of vicarious trauma on individuals and on organizations, as well as resources designed to help you identify and address vicarious trauma proactively.

What is vicarious trauma?
Exposure to the traumatic experiences of other people is an inevitable occupational challenge for people working in the fields of victim services, emergency medical services, fire services, law enforcement, and other allied professions. There is a spectrum of responses to vicarious trauma that range from negative to positive.

Negative   Neutral   Positive  
                 
  Vicarious
Traumatization
  Individual Resilience   Vicarious
Transformation
           
           
  Secondary
Traumatic Stress
    Vicarious Resilience
       
           
  Compassion Fatigue   Compassion
Satisfaction
       
     
  Burnout
   

Who is impacted by vicarious trauma?
Anyone working or volunteering in a field with continuous exposure to victims of trauma and violence can be impacted by vicarious trauma.

Why is it important to address negative vicarious trauma?
Exposure to trauma manifests itself in many ways, from the psychological to the emotional to even the physical. Research shows that such negative responses to vicarious trauma, left unaddressed, lead to staff burnout, staff turnover, and stress, which, in turn, may affect the quality of services provided to crime victims.

OVC has a variety of resources available to help individuals identify and respond to vicarious trauma, including self-paced trainings, webinars, and resources focused on self-care.

In addition to the resources below, individuals can apply for a Professional Development Scholarship to attend a vicarious trauma-focused conference or training. Go to the OVC Professional Development Scholarship page for more information about this program and how you can apply.

Organizations can also request free training and technical assistance (TTA) focused on ways to recognize and respond to negative vicarious trauma on individuals, including:

  • Customized Training and Technical Assistance—OVC delivers tailored TTA to meet your organization's needs on various victimizations and crime and victim assistance topics, for example—
    • Understanding burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma in victim advocates
    • Healthy ways of responding to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue
  • Standardized Training—Select a training from our catalog of topics. OVC will provide instructors, an onsite coordinator, instructor training materials, and a manual for each participant. See description of the OVC Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma training below.
  • Speaker Support—OVC provides speakers for short general presentations at your event, including plenaries, panels, or victim impact presentations.

If your organization is interested in TTA, go to the "how we can help" page. You can also call
1–866–OVC–TTAC (1–866–682–8822) or send an email to TTAC@ovcttac.org to speak with a TTA specialist about requesting free TTA.

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Online Training

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Online Training

Access interactive training in a variety of subject areas. Programs are available to take on your own schedule, at your own pace, from your own computer.
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Title Length Get Started Take the Training
1 hour Register for this training. Already registered? Take Course.
Covers the role of victim service providers in monitoring their own self-care and safety. Because of your work, you are susceptible to vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and other stress-related conditions. To remain effective in your job and helpful to victims, you must know the risk factors for developing these conditions, how to minimize them, and how to take care of yourself if you do experience a stress-related condition.

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Training

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Training

Organizations can gather a group of victim service and allied professionals in your area and arrange a meeting space. OVC will provide instructors, an onsite coordinator, and a manual for each participant.
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Title Length CEUs Flier
2 Days 1.1 CEUs Download Flier [PDF, 151KB]

This training will explore self-care techniques as well as strategies managers can use to help ensure balance and self-care for those that they supervise. By participating in case studies, role-playing, and other interactive exercises, you will learn how to recognize the symptoms of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, develop resilience and healthy coping skills, and create a professional and personal care plan to minimize the risk of compassion fatigue in your work.
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Webinars

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Webinars

The following webinars provide information related to vicarious trauma. Learn about upcoming webinars.
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Title Date Length Training Materials
August 22, 2018 1 hour Listen/View Webinar
View PowerPoint (PDF 380 KB)
View Handout (PDF 199 KB)
View Handout (PDF 309)

In this session, victim service providers discuss what contributes to vicarious trauma and learn how vicarious trauma is related to secondary traumatic stress.

Host Biography:

Barbara Rubel, M.A., B.C.E.T.S., D.A.A.E.T.S., is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and trainer on topics related to survivors of homicide victims, victim relations training, and helping victim service professionals identify their strengths to build their resilience. Ms. Rubel's humorous and upbeat style offers a delightful composite of experience, research, and practical application that promotes self-compassion and wellness. She is the co-author of the OVC Compassion Fatigue training curriculum, author of the book But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Children and Families After a Suicide, and author of the continuing education course book Nurses, Death, Dying, and Bereavement: Providing Compassion During a Time of Need.
August 25, 2016 1 hour Listen/View Webinar
View PowerPoint (PDF 800 KB)

In this session, providers will develop an increased understanding of vicarious trauma and determine ways to develop resiliency and healthy coping skills for those providing care to recent victims of sexual assault.

OVC has a variety of resources available to organizations interested in becoming vicarious trauma-informed. Organizations can request training and technical assistance (TTA) focused on the impact of vicarious trauma at an organizational level.

  • Customized Training and Technical Assistance—OVC delivers tailored TTA to meet your organization's needs on various victimizations and crime and victim assistance topics. For example:
    • Managing Vicarious Trauma in Corrections-Based Victim Services
    • Understanding Vicarious Trauma and Building Resiliency in Your Agency
  • Standardized Training—Select a training from our catalog of topics. OVC will provide instructors, an onsite coordinator, and a manual for each participant. See the list of vicarious trauma-related trainings available below.
  • Speaker Support—OVC provides speakers for short general presentations at your event, including plenaries, panels, or victim impact presentations.
  • TTA on the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit—Organizations can also request TTA focused specifically on the OVC Vicarious Trauma Toolkit, which is also available for the following allied professionals who regularly engage with people who are impacted by trauma and violence:
    • Emergency medical services, including independent agencies and those that are part of a fire service organization.
    • Fire services, including both paid and volunteer departments.
    • Law enforcement, including police, sheriffs, and tribal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

    Go to the OVC Vicarious Trauma Toolkit tab for more information about the OVC Vicarious Trauma Toolkit and related resources.

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Training

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Training

Gather a group of victim service and allied professionals in your area and arrange a meeting space. OVC will provide instructors, an onsite coordinator, and a manual for each participant.
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Title Length CEUs Flier
1 Day .7 CEU Download Flier [PDF, 151KB]

The goal of this 1-day training is to identify the five individual elements of resiliency and explore how they can be implemented in an organization through policies, supervisory techniques, and training.
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2 Days 1.1 CEUs Download Flier [PDF, 151KB]

This training will explore self-care techniques as well as strategies managers can use to help ensure balance and self-care for those that they supervise. By participating in case studies, role-playing, and other interactive exercises, you will learn how to recognize the symptoms of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, develop resilience and healthy coping skills, and create a professional and personal care plan to minimize the risk of compassion fatigue in your work.
Learn More

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Instructor Materials

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Instructor Materials

Download materials to make an in-person training more effective and improve the capacity of the presenter.
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Title What's Included

Show Summary
  • Agenda
  • Webinar PowerPoint presentations
  • Onsite PowerPoint presentations
  • Instructor Manual
  • Participant Manual
  • Other resources
  • PowerPoints with videos
  • Participant feedback forms

This training is intended for victim service providers who work in agencies interested in and willing to implement policies, supervisory techniques, and competency-based training that support resiliency.

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National Victim Assistance Academy

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National Victim Assistance Academy

OVC offers a series of comprehensive and practical trainings to build organizational capacity. Sign up to receive information about upcoming NVAA trainings.
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Title Length CEUs
3 weeks .5
As victim service providers, we know how important resiliency is in the victims we serve. We are less aware of how to develop resiliency within ourselves and in the organizations where we work. This training will provide a resiliency model and explain how it can be applied to organizations. Potential barriers will be identified, along with strategies to overcome them.

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Webinars

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Webinars

The following webinars provide information related to vicarious trauma. Learn about upcoming webinars.
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Title Date Length Training Materials
Show Summary November 8, 2019 1 hour Listen/View Webinar
View PowerPoint (PDF 2.22 MB)

This webinar discusses the five pillars of a vicarious trauma-informed organization. The presenters walk you through how to use the Vicarious Trauma—Organizational Readiness Guide (VT–ORG) to conduct an evidence-informed assessment of your organization’s current capacity as a vicarious trauma-informed organization.

Show Summary October 18, 2019 1 hour Listen/View Webinar
View PowerPoint (PDF 1.97 MB)

This webinar will help you define vicarious trauma, discuss the spectrum of responses to vicarious trauma, describe the concept of being "vicarious trauma-informed," and more. 

Show Summary Show Host Biography August 23, 2017 1 hour Listen/View Webinar
View PowerPoint (PDF 2.13 MB)

This session focuses on how OVC’s Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) can help you to—

  • Conduct an assessment of your agency's current capacity as a vicarious trauma-informed organization.
  • Bring leadership and staff together to review your existing capacity, identify gaps, and prioritize needs.
  • Locate resources and tools in the VTT and Compendium of Resources to help meet your identified needs.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan to become a vicarious trauma-informed organization that addresses exposure to single incidents of crime or violence and acts of mass violence and terrorism.
Host Biographies:

Theresa Friend, CNM, MSN, is the Indian Health Service (IHS) national forensic nurse consultant addressing the health care response to victims of violence. Prior to taking this position in 2015, she lived and worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for 35 years. As a midwife, her clinical background includes reproductive health, STD/HIV care, and domestic and sexual violence across the lifespan. Holding a master’s degree from Yale University, she received Yale’s Distinguished Alumni Award for improvement of health care to native women, and has been recognized by IHS for building partnerships aimed at health promotion/disease prevention and expanding access to care. Ms. Friend is grateful for the support of her spouse and daughter, both members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Tatewin Means, JD, is an indigenous woman from the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Oglala Lakota nations in South Dakota. Ms. Means grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and later moved to Rapid City. She received her bachelor's degree from Stanford University in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She then returned to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and worked for Oglala Lakota College as the environmental lab manager for the Lakota Institute for Science and Technology. While there, she began graduate studies in Lakota Leadership and Management. She then went to law school and received her juris doctorate with a concentration in Human Rights Law from the University of Minnesota Law School.

The OVC Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) introduces a new model for examining and conceptualizing the effects of vicarious trauma along a spectrum of reactions to the work-related trauma exposure that victim service providers and first responders experience every day. The VTT focuses on organizational responses to work-related exposure to trauma. While some resources in the toolkit may be useful to individuals, the VTT is intended to provide organizations with the tools they need to fulfill their responsibility to support staff and become more vicarious trauma-informed.

The VTT is intended for victim service providers as well as allied professionals (e.g., law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, fire departments) who may also interact with people experiencing trauma.

You can access the OVC Vicarious Trauma Toolkit on the OVC website.

How To Use the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit

OVC has several resources to assist organizations in using the VTT effectively.

The Blueprint provides guidance on using the Vicarious Trauma-Organizational Readiness Guide (VT-ORG) to assess your organization's current capacity as a vicarious trauma-informed organization and offers suggestions on how to use the Compendium of Resources, including the New Tools for the Field, created specifically for the VTT. You can access the VTT Blueprint here.

Organizations can also view the short elearnings in the table below for guidance on ways to implement components of the VTT.

Screenshot of OVC Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) Video

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Listen/View the Transcript (PDF 102 KB)

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Title Length Get Started
10 minutes Listen/View Video
In this video, you will learn how to develop a plan to obtain buy-in across the organization by delivering a pitch that uses data, as well as stories from the field and from inside your own organization, to motivate change, and uses the tools and resources in the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit to become a more vicarious trauma-informed organization.
10 minutes Listen/View Video
In this video, viewers will learn how to explain the importance of using the VT-ORG and sharing and communicating the assessment's significance to staff effectively.
2-4 minutes Listen/View Video
This video guides viewers through the VT-ORG Action Plan, including the various components of the plan, and how to prioritize results for creating a more trauma-informed organization.
2-4 minutes Listen/View Video
This video demonstrates how to use the search and filter features of the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit Compendium of Resources, which can be used to supplement a developed VT-ORG Action Plan.