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2005 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 10, No. 3
June 2005

Ways Supervisors Can Help Workers Deal with Secondary Trauma

The following is excerpted from Salus (2004):

To avoid burnout and to help caseworkers deal effectively with the effects of secondary trauma, supervisors can:

  • Assist caseworkers in dealing with the emotional impact of the work by allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings about it.

  • Offer ongoing or further support and validation to line workers when a traumatic event occurs. Staff need to be able to express their feelings and have opportunities to talk about their thoughts. If intrusive thoughts extend beyond the trauma experience, caseworkers need to learn to anticipate and manage them effectively. This also may be helpful when the traumas (e.g., floods or terrorism attacks) are not casework-related and may affect the entire community or the caseworker personally.

  • Institute a trauma support group. Meetings should be regularly scheduled (e.g., at the same time twice a month) with the focus on the traumatic stress in caseworkers' lives.

  • Initiate supportive activities on the unit level. For example, a practice could be started of coworkers helping with paperwork or assisting with home visits during particularly traumatic periods. Supervisors can establish flexible work schedules, including "mental health days" or days spent in the office not making home visits. Another option is to spend time in certain meetings discussing the personal side of work.

  • Provide a religious or spiritual consultant to offer solace and counseling when children or fellow staff members die.

  • Deliver training to create self-awareness regarding stress and how to manage it, how to understand the effects of trauma, and how to develop coping skills that enable staff to better manage trauma.

References for this and other articles in this issue