Psychologist MacEwan University Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Disclosure: I do not have any relevant financial / non-financial relationships with any proprietary interests.
Within the last 35 years, increased attention toward the effects of trauma work on counsellors has defined a singular narrative that deems it a risky practice, leaving little space for alternative stories. From this dominant narrative, the research puzzle emerged. Using narrative inquiry, I came alongside three counsellor trainees in a doctoral program in Canada. I explored how their experiences within and outside the counselling program shaped their views of trauma work. Looking across the participants’ stories, four narrative threads emerged: (1) coming to construct what it means to have experienced trauma in different ways; (2) using the trauma lens to reflect on our own lives; (3) storying trauma into our personal and professional lives; and (4) making sense of trauma and vicarious trauma in the silences. The findings elucidated the importance of discussions about how we define trauma and set boundaries in counselling work. Implications for supervision were also discussed, including defining the scope of supervision and creating spaces to discuss the effects of trauma work. There were many misconceptions about vicarious trauma which highlighted a need for improvement in teaching and supervision. These changes would be pivotal towards helping students better prepare as they enter the counselling field.
Re-examine their understanding of how trauma is defined and how their definition shapes their understanding of clients' experiences.
Understand some of the challenges faced by students in counsellor education programs when it comes to engaging in trauma work, and identify ways of ameliorating these challenges.
Learn about the different types of boundaries practiced by the participants in their engagement with trauma survivors, and how different types of boundaries affected participants and their clients in different ways (including wellness, vicarious trauma, identity development, therapeutic relationship, etc).
Identify improvements to their practice of clinical supervision when supervising counselling students in their engagement with trauma work.
Name the many misconceptions of vicarious trauma shared by the participants, and reflect on how the approaches used to teaching trauma work influence these misconceptions.