Preventing Professional Trauma Responses
It is well known in trauma research that psychotherapists who work with trauma survivors are prone to their own troubling traumatic responses, such as vicarious traumatization, counter trauma, and secondary victimization. Recognizing that all psychologists are working to help cope with a mass trauma with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ohio Psychological Association Prevention and Wellness Program began a weekly offering of Self-Care Assemblies for Ohio psychologists in late March. Our program recognized that while psychologists were busy caring for their clients and patients, they needed a safe space to be able to acknowledge the impact of working on the front lines. The Zoom virtual platform allowed us to give our members the opportunity to talk about both what was most stressful and what success strategies they were employing. We helped them to talk about the wisdom they had learned from their experiences with past traumas, whether ones they had experienced themselves or ones they had helped others to cope with. As the pandemic worn on, participants were able to share their own fears, their fatigue, and struggles learning new technology. Whether we had 15 or 5 participants, the assemblies proved to be an effective method of supporting Ohio Psychologists. Most importantly, we helped to create a professional culture that encouraged and supported sharing our vulnerabilities and supporting each other, helping all of us know we needed to lean on each other to get through this marathon, and to prevent any decrease in our own levels of professional functioning.
-Howard Fradkin, Ph.D.
Howard Fradkin, Ph.D. is the chair of the Ohio Psychological Association Prevention and Wellness Program. He retired from private practice in 2017 after 35 years of helping trauma survivors heal. He currently consults with the Ohio and federal public defender’s office about mitigation cases for male and female trauma survivors in the criminal justice system. He is facilitator emeritus of MenHealing.org, a nonprofit offering healing weekends for male survivors of sexual victimization.