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Working with Children Who Have Undergone Trauma Affects Those Helping Them Too

We’ve written in a previous blog about Alta Behavioral Healthcare’s Trauma Care programs, which are the most comprehensive in the Mahoning Valley. Under the direction of Meg Harris, LPC, Community Support and Trauma Supervisor, Alta has also developed a Trauma Informed Care Program designed to train other community organizations, businesses and/or schools in how to deal with this sensitive issue in children.

Roughly half of American school children have experienced at least some form of trauma — from neglect, to abuse to violence. Dealing with this is not only the domain of counselors, but others who in their professional lives may encounter children who are victims of trauma.

This includes teachers, law enforcement, trauma doctors and nurses, child welfare workers, as well as therapists and case managers. It is now understood that encountering children in trauma — learning about their stories of hardship and supporting their recovery — can have far-reaching emotional effects on the person who hears these stories.

This condition has been given several names: secondary traumatic stress (STS), vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, etc. The symptoms are similar in some ways to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): withdrawing from friends and family; feeling unexplainably irritable or angry or numb; inability to focus; blaming others; feeling hopeless or isolated or guilty about not doing enough; struggling to concentrate; being unable to sleep; overeating or not eating enough; and continually and persistently worrying children, at when they’re at home and even in their sleep.

A website maintained by the Harvard Graduate School of Education recently posted an article that explores STS in detail. You can read it at this link.