Work-related Vicarious Traumatisation of Professionals in the Justice System

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University of South Australia, 2008 - Post-traumatic stress disorder - 271 pages
This hermeneutic phenomenological study focuses on work-related vicarious traumatisation based on experiences of professionals in the justice system. The experiences, knowledge and understanding of eighteen participants and me are at centre stage as an illustration of how professionals comprehend and reflect on their experiences of work-related vicarious traumatisation and how the causes and symptoms of trauma are interpreted. This thesis enhances understandings about the psychological, medical, social and cultural circumstances that contribute to work-related vicarious trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and burnout. Participants experienced a fear of the consequences of admitting that they are experiencing trauma because of being a professional working in the justice system. They felt at risk and perceived themselves as being ineffective because of a lack of education about work-related vicarious traumatisation and the law. They felt emotionally and professionally isolated. Participants were called upon to develop their internal and external resources, to exercise self care, to limit or minimise their physiological and emotional trauma and stress they experience as a consequence of their work. Experiencing vicarious traumatisation as a consequence created many needs. Participants needed support from employers, security at the workplace and more legal knowledge. Their experiences call upon a requirement for volunteers and emergency response teams; access to counselling and employee assistance programs, education and social support. This thesis makes a contribution to the field by highlighting the need for professionals in the justice system to view work-related vicarious traumatisation as being connected with a system within which workers find themselves rather than solely a biomedical or individual problem. The nature of the system creates the need for any professional in the justice system to learn how to work within a context of vicarious traumatisation and the system is called upon to learn how to support individuals who will be exposed to this occupational work hazard.

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