Academic journal article Best Practices in Mental Health

The Effects of Reiki Treatment on Mental Health Professionals at Risk for Secondary Traumatic Stress: A Placebo Control Study

Academic journal article Best Practices in Mental Health

The Effects of Reiki Treatment on Mental Health Professionals at Risk for Secondary Traumatic Stress: A Placebo Control Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is the stress experienced by individuals who are in continuous contact with a traumatizing event as a result of acting as a secondary witness to that event (Figley, 1995). Figley (1999) defined STS as "the natural, consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other. It is the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person" (p. 10). Researchers have reported predictors associated with STS in mental health professionals including type of service provided, nature of the work, age and years of experience, caseload, support from colleagues, work overload, time pressures, client characteristics, past trauma history, professional isolation, personal circumstances, spiritual beliefs, and work environment (Arvay & Ulhlemann, 1995; Prosser et al., 1996; Ursano, Fullerton, Vance, & Kao, 1999; Wee & Myers, 2002). Symptoms of STS include anxiety; stress; disturbed sleep and insomnia; anger/rage; fear; social phobia; increased use of alcohol; mistrust; isolation; perceptual distortions of reality; extreme protectiveness toward loved ones; feelings of being overwhelmed, depleted, or worthless; guilt; numbness; helplessness; pervasive hopelessness; and mistrust (Arvay & Ulhlemann, 1995; Cornille & Myers, 1999; Crothers, 1995; Figley, 1995; Yassen, 1995). Other general physical conditions associated with STS are increased arousal, sweating, rapid heart rate, breathing difficulties, somatic reactions, aches and pains, dizziness, and an impaired immune system (American Psychiatric Association, 2004; Yassen, 1995). Even though STS is recognized as an occupational hazard, current research reports few incidences among mental health professionals, but the existing studies are limited to specific populations with small sample sizes (Benoit, Veach, & Leroy, 2007; Bride, 2007; Simon, Pryce, Roff, & Klemmack, 2005). Moreover, the evidence provided by these studies indicates that mental health professionals working with traumatized individuals are at risk for STS (Boscarino, Figley, & Adams, 2004; Bride, 2007; Nelson-Gardell & Harris, 2003; Simon et al., 2005).

Mental health professionals affected by STS may experience an array of trauma symptoms including fear, depression, anxiety, stress, anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, physiological arousal, and hopelessness ( American Psychiatric Association, 2004; Arvay & Ulhlemann, 1995; Bride, 2007; Cornille & Myers, 1999; Figley, 1995; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; Yassen, 1995). Debriefing has been the recommended therapeutic approach to treat STS (Arvay, 2001); however, the scientific community is scrutinizing this widely used method (Naturale, 2007). Research indicates that debriefing may cause more harm than benefit (Phipps & Byrne, 2003; Regehr, 2001). Regehr also reports that individuals participating in debriefing groups who listen to the descriptions of others' traumatic experiences may develop STS. Other recommended interventions for STS are preventative and include discussing the risks of developing STS with individuals working with trauma clients, peer support, and supervision (Naturale, 2007). McCann and Pearlman (1990) recommend a comprehensive approach to address the individuaFs needs, including his or her spiritual, emotional, and physical components.

Reiki is an energy therapy modality acknowledged by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2002). Reiki is based on the belief that, when spiritual energy is channeled through a Reiki practitioner, the spirit is healed, which in turn heals the physical body (Miles & True, 2003; Natale, 2010). It is presently used in many hospitals throughout the country as an adjunct therapy to treat physical illness and facilitate well-being (Barnett, Chambers, & Davidson, 1996; Natale, 2010; Nield-Anderson & Ameling, 2000). …

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