C1. Supporting Clinicians and Others – Oral Paper Session

Friday, 31 March 2017

The role of the clinical supervisor in managing vicarious trauma and fostering vicarious post traumatic growth

Working with trauma survivors changes you. Trauma work has a personal impact that can affect the trauma worker’s perceptions of themselves, their relationships with others and their view of the world – recognised as vicarious trauma. Trauma workers, and more frequently supervisors themselves, identify supervision as a protective factor against vicarious trauma. However, there is limited research on what actually happens in supervision and how this may be connected to efforts to reduce vicarious trauma. Additionally, studies find that trauma workers consistently identify both positive and negative impacts of the work yet the body of research on vicarious post-traumatic growth is relatively small. Cohen and Collens (2013) propose a model of the co-occurrence of vicarious trauma and vicarious post-traumatic growth based on a meta-analysis of 20 published qualitative studies of trauma workers’ experience. The model was examined through 11 semi-structured interviews with supervisors of refugee torture and trauma counsellors working in member agencies of the Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT). The thematic analysis of the interviews identifies commonly used supervision processes and useful insights into the interplay of vicarious trauma and vicarious post-traumatic growth, extending the Cohen and Collens model. A striking result was the emphasis on looking for signs of growth and resilience within the client and the counselling process. The results of this study inform current and potential supervisors of useful supervision practice, supervisees of the potential support they can gain and inform organisational priorities for the structure of supervision.

Stephanie Long (Queensland Program of Assistance of Survivors of Torture and Trauma)

Reflective Practice Approach to Supporting Professionals and Organisations who are working with people from Refugee Backgrounds

The internalisation of terror and subsequent psychological presentation and the impact of trauma on families and communities, impose major challenges for professionals when engaging and working with people from refugee backgrounds. These challenges exist in a wide range of contexts; including but by no means limited, to counseling and health services, settlement support services and education. They are manifest at the individual worker level and are mitigated or intensified by the operations of socio-political, sector level and organisational systems.

It is common for professionals to experience emotions that can impact on the quality of their immediate work. Crucial capabilities such as the professional and their organisations’ capacity to identify and maintain appropriate boundaries and the ability to listen to and understand the experiences of survivors of extreme violence, can be affected. Furthermore professional’s emotional responses and challenges to their sense of efficacy and even the ways in which their world views are shaped affect their personal and professional lives beyond their current day to day work tasks. The need for reflective processes to manage the inherent risks and learn from presenting challenges has been well documented.

Reflective practice groups are a specific intervention that can be utilised to support professionals to reflect and consider in context; firstly, the role they play (and are systematically restricted from playing) in their clients’ lives and secondly; the ways in which they are in turn affected by their involvement in their clients’ lives. The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture has developed, based on existing research and published literature, its Reflective Practice Approach when working with professionals who work with people from refugee backgrounds. This paper explains the rationale for this approach and describes the model developed with reference to case examples of how it has been implemented.

Conrad Aiken (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture)

Clinical Supervision: Managing Unbearable Projections

This paper is a development of previous work by the authors who have been clinical supervisors in the field for many years. The focus of this paper is on the role of the supervisor in helping the therapists to receive the dissociated, fragmented and projected aspects of refugee clients’ traumatic experiences. A growing literature describes how listening to traumatic experiences can affect the practitioner. We will use case material to show the effect on the therapist of listening and sitting with refugees who have been subjected to extreme brutality and loss. We discuss how supervision can help the practitioner maintain the therapeutic process. The paper examines current research, and explores some core issues in the supervision process in this field of practice.

Rise Becker & Robin Bowles (STARTTS)

Presentation currently unavailable