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Identifying the Effects and Support Needs of Foster Youth Counselors Experiencing Vicarious Trauma

  • Author(s): Alarcon, Leah
  • Advisor(s): Cooper, Robert;
  • Durkin, Diane
  • et al.

This study examined the effects of vicarious trauma among California State University (CSU) academic counselors charged with serving foster youth on six different CSU campuses. The nine participants described their reaction to hearing traumatic stories from students that utilize the respective foster youth programs. Additionally, this study examined the support they state they need from their supervisor to address these effects. Research related to vicarious trauma has not addressed this population as they do not serve in a therapist, case worker, or social worker role nor has the research addressed this population’s need for support from their supervisor. This study consisted of interviews, as well as data from a scale used to determine the frequency of the effects of secondary trauma, to investigate the extent of vicarious among the participants, how the effects of vicarious trauma affect their everyday lives, and the support needed from their supervisor. Analysis of the data revealed that this population is affected by the traumatic stories they hear from foster youth emotionally, by reliving their life experiences, and with physiological responses. Participants also stated the need for time, to be heard, and empathy from their supervisors when dealing with these effects. Implications for practice, policy, research are provided and the extent and range of vicarious trauma potentially existing for others working with similar student populations are suggested.

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