formerly St. Joseph Orphanage (855) 577-PATH (7284)
secondhand trauma

Secondhand Trauma

Signs and Coping Strategies

Unchecked, secondhand trauma can lead to stress, emotional numbing, and burnout among direct-care professionals.

“Rest and self-care are so important.

When you take time to replenish your spirit,

it allows you to serve others from the overflow.

You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

Eleanor Brown

Trauma in Direct-Care Professionals

According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), “secondhand, or vicarious, trauma is a condition that affects many people who interact with those who have experienced a traumatic event.” Secondhand trauma is a condition formed by the cumulative effect of observing, hearing, or experiencing multiple trauma accounts, typically through daily work. This condition is also known as trauma exposure response, secondhand stress, and secondary traumatic stress. Social workers, physicians, first responders, nurses, trauma and school counselors, and teachers are examples of professional industries most at risk for secondhand trauma. However, anyone can feel varying degrees of its effects due to prolonged exposure to traumatic stories via the news, social media, or other mediums.

Signs of Secondhand trauma

  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • A sense that you can never do enough
  • Hypervigilance
  • Diminished or the inability to embrace creativity
  • Minimizing or self-lessening
  • Chronic exhaustion or physical ailments
  • Deliberate avoidance or inability to listen
  • Dissociative moments
  • Sense of persecution
  • Guilt, fear, anger and cynicism
  • Numbing or the inability to empathize
  • Addiction or unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Grandiosity or unrealistic sense of superiority

Helping Those that Help Others

Left unchecked, secondhand trauma can lead to stress, emotional numbing, and burnout. “It’s important for you to attend to it because if you ignore the impact of trauma, it continues to affect you, and it starts to affect your work with clients or whoever you help, whoever you work with,” Maryland social worker Laurie Reagan, LCSW-C.

NewPath Child & Family Solutions (formerly St. Joseph Orphanage) strives to do better through growth and positive change at every level. NewPath wants all staff to feel supported, invested in, and have opportunities for growth, meaningful work, and to make an impact. This is especially important for all NewPath direct-care professionals that use expert trauma-informed care to help children who need it most. NewPath prioritizes the health and well-being of the entire agency, supporting those that support the community.

Secondhand Trauma Coping Strategies

  • Exercise
  • Rest and relax
  • Spend time in nature
  • Connect with family, friends and coworkers
  • Ask for help
  • Use creative expression
  • Be okay saying “no”
  • Manage your time
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Celebrate your work and little victories
  • Plan a coping strategy

How NewPath Prioritizes Staff Well-Being

Promotes self-care and prioritizes staff care

NewPath encourages staff to attend relevant training sessions to add variety and break up their weeks. Staff schedules are flexible and organized to promote a healthy work-life balance. Self-care practices and strategies are discussed regularly in supervisory meetings. Agency-wide self-care weeks are held throughout the year to provide mental health breaks and check-ins.

Divides responsibilities and ensures diverse workloads

NewPath’s supervisors and leaders promote a culture of continuous conversation around managing staff workload. Schedules are flexible and accommodating to ensure staff success. Team members are surrounded by a positive culture where they can freely speak if they feel overwhelmed.

Offers professional training and encourages staff development

NewPath offers various internal training sessions with topics such as leadership and management. Additionally, staff is encouraged to attend relevant Continuing Education Units (CEU) trainings. NewPath instituted the Ambassadors for Change Committee, an internal group of direct-care staff. Passionate about their work, their goal is to strengthen their teams and discuss opportunities for growth and change.

Creates opportunities for staff to connect outside work

NewPath holds multiple staff activities both on and off the clock. Everything from agency-hosted events like the annual Summer Celebration staff appreciation to lunchtime recipe cook-offs. These activities all have the same goal, to provide an avenue for team members to have fun and continue building a strong interpersonal staff culture.

Provides counseling resources

In partnership with TriHealth, NewPath provides a free Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all employees and their families. This program aims to assist in times of crisis and help the entire agency thrive at various points in their lives. Staff and their families can schedule up to 10 confidential counseling sessions per issue with a licensed counselor. This benefit also consists of Ask-A-Counselor online question platform, WorkLife Services resources, Employee Enrichment webinars, and Supervisory Training seminars.

More than a Profession. A Purpose.

NewPath is a comprehensive mental health agency helping 11,000+ children and families annually. You can make a daily impact through one of our rewarding career opportunities. Working at NewPath allows you to be a positive role model in a child’s life and help them understand the importance of healthy decisions and relationships. You will be a key person in helping youth and families through some of their most difficult times and have the opportunity to see them achieve many successes.


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