Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Regenerative Supervision: A Restorative Approach for Counsellors Impacted by Vicarious Trauma/Supervision Régénérative : Une Approche Rétablissante Pour Les Conseillers Affectés Par Traumatisme Vicariant

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Regenerative Supervision: A Restorative Approach for Counsellors Impacted by Vicarious Trauma/Supervision Régénérative : Une Approche Rétablissante Pour Les Conseillers Affectés Par Traumatisme Vicariant

Article excerpt

Counsellors who provide services for clients with traumatic material are vulnerable to vicariously experiencing emotional aspects of their clients' experiences (Jordan, 2010). This vicarious experiencing, a phenomenon known as vicarious trauma (VT), can impact the counsellor's personal and professional functioning. Over the last two decades, research has focused on the debilitating impacts of trauma counselling, such as burnout and withdrawal, with a number of articles addressing the cognitive and emotional effects of working as a trauma counsellor (Cohen & Collens, 2013; Fahy, 2007 Harrison & Westwood, 2009). These effects may impact the counsellor's personal and professional functioning (Adams & Riggs, 2008; Branson, Weigand, & Keller, 2013; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; Trippany, Kress, & Wilcoxon, 2004). While much of the literature has discussed hazards related to working with trauma, some authors have also focused on the potential benefits of providing trauma counselling (Harrison & Westwood, 2009; Hernandez, Engstrom, & Gangsei, 2010). These benefits have been identified as outcomes of vicarious posttraumatic growth (VPTG), a phenomenon that occurs in response to processing the client's posttraumatic growth (PTG; Cohen & Collens, 2013). Counselling supervision plays an important role in ameliorating the effects of VT (Harrison & Westwood, 2009) and in facilitating the development of VPTG (Linley & Joseph, 2007). Expressive arts supervision, in particular, appears to have implications for working with supervisees with trauma-laden caseloads.

This article provides readers with an overview of VT, identifying and describing symptoms commonly experienced by trauma counsellors. Concepts related to PTG and VPTG will follow. A brief discussion of the specific supervision needs of trauma counsellors will be included, followed by a detailed description of an expressive arts counselling supervision model, known as the regenerative model (RM). This model offers supervisors a framework for structuring supervision sessions to mitigate the effects of VT while eliciting dynamics of VPTG. Case examples are provided to illustrate the supervision process and rationale.

VICARIOUS TRAUMA AND POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH

Identified by McCann and Pearlman in 1990, the term vicarious trauma (VT) denotes the phenomenon of emotional and cognitive shifts counsellors experience when working with clients who have experienced trauma. Examples of these cognitive shifts include disruptions in memory, beliefs, and perceptions of self and others, while emotional shifts may include emotional exhaustion and detachment of the counsellor from the client (Trippany et al., 2004). Over time, continuous exposure to client trauma and the need to consistently empathize with the emotional pain and injustices experienced by some clients may cause counsellors to develop maladaptive coping strategies such as hypervigilance or isolation as ways to protect themselves emotionally. Professionally, VT can manifest itself through counsellors' avoidance of discussing their clients' concerns (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995), thus halting the therapeutic process (Harrison & Westwood, 2009). It may evidence in boundary concerns related to the counsellor's work, such as working too many hours in a day or week, or by the counsellor unintentionally revictimizing his or her clients, debasing the profession, or misdiagnosing clients (Munroe, 1995).

Effects on the counsellors' personal lives may include trauma counsellors distancing themselves emotionally from significant people in their lives and isolating from family and friends (Trippany et al., 2004). Counsellors experiencing VT may also experience a generalized sense of fear (Pearlman & Mac Ian, 1995), powerlessness (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995), distrust (Schauben & Frazier, 1995), loss of meaning (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995), psychic numbing (Saakvitne & Pearlman, 1996), nightmares (Adams & Riggs, 2008), or a decrease in sexual desire (Branson et al. …

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