Secondary Trauma and Compassion Fatigue

help for compassion fatigur and secondary trauma

14 Steps That Help

by Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT

Secondary trauma (vicarious trauma), compassion fatigue, stress and PTSD represent a serious group of related problems for people who care for, hear about or witness the intense suffering of others.  Ultimately, this can lead to burnout.  Several professions are at high risk for compassion fatigue and burnout including physicians, attorneys, nurses, psychologists, counselors, social workers, hospice workers, adult and child protective service workers.  Those who care for people in nursing homes and those who care for patients at home are also at risk.  Families who care for suffering relatives are particularly vulnerable to these problems.

However, almost anyone can be vulnerable to the impact of secondary trauma (vicarious trauma).  Anyone with a television can tune in to the unending stream of disasters.  For years, I have advised my clients against the negative mental health effects of sensational TV reporting.  This recommendation is a direct result of seeing the adverse effect that such stories and images have on the people I treat.

For example, in the years since the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, I have treated one person who was actually in New York at the time and a couple of people who had been in the twin towers just the day before they came down.  This is about what I would have expected since my office is in the Dallas area.  However, I have treated many people for the secondary trauma of watching hours upon hours of broadcasts of the pain and suffering of the people who were there.  I continue to treat people for vicarious trauma related to that event many years after the fact.

This information outlines 14 steps that can be taken to increase resilience to this form of stress.  Two effective approaches are underscored for desensitizing traumatic stress and calming the emotional midbrain.  The video below demonstrates one of the two effective treatment approaches outlined in "14 steps that help" slide presentation.  It is the use of the REMAP process to treat secondary trauma and sadness.

The slide presentation below provides links to information that explains the nature of the PTSD, stress, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue problem and offers practical self-help interventions.  Please review the slides now to discover how this information can be of help to you.


  • 1. PTSD Stress Secondary Trauma Compassion Fatigue 14 Steps That Help 14 Steps That Help Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT 1
  • 2. Stress Level Limit Stress Goes Here Psychological Coping Container Whether your capacity for containing stress is small, medium or large, everyone has their limit. 2
  • 3. Two Types of Stress Routine Stress Both Adversely Effect Functioning 0--------------6---------10 Traumatic Stress 0-----------------7------10 3
  • 4. Traumatic Stress Is too Intense To Handle Routed Into the Bottom of the Coping Container 0-----------------7------10 4
  • 5. Traumatic Stress Compartmentalized for Long-Term Storage Does Not Heal Remains Painful 0-----------------7------10 5
  • 6. Routine Stress 0--------------6---------10 With Enough Time, It Can Evaporate, Work its way out 0-----------------7------10 6
  • 7. Routine Stress 0--------------6---------10 Too Much, Too Soon Leads to Spillover Loss of Containment Overwhelm – Panic It Feels Traumatic Video – 2 min. 0-----------------7------10 7
  • 8. Emotional Midbrain • When traumatized or when we • Hit cumulative stress overwhelm • The midbrain (amygdala) is imprinted • With threatening and benign data • The alarm is then set and • Triggered by any trauma remainder • Causing a fight, flight or freeze reflex Midbrain Intro Video # 5 on the Midbrain – 11 min. PTSD Symptoms 8
  • 9. Secondary Trauma Viewers of 9-11 Media Coverage Develop Secondary PTSD Trauma resulting from caring for, hearing about or witnessing the intense suffering of others. Over time, the cumulative effect can result in an internalization of trauma, leading to compassion fatigue or burnout. 9
  • 10. 12 Ways to Increase Resilience to Stress & Secondary Trauma 10
  • 11. Boost Coping Capacity Speed Up Offloading Stress 11
  • 12. Walk Laugh Sleep Recreation Social Support Media Diet TV 6 Healthy Habits 12
  • 13. 3 Ways to Manage the Mind Change Your Expectations Expect = Get Expect = Get Develop a Positive Filter Look for What’s to Like – Attitude of Gratitude Let the ANTs Go Automatic Negative Thoughts 13
  • 14. 3 Daily Mind-Body Practices Stress-Relieving Breathing Video # 1 – 11 min. Intro. Video # 2 – 6.5 min. Exercise Mindfulness Video # 3 – 7 min. Intro. Video # 4 – 7.5 min. Exercise Quick REMAP Video # 6 – 11 min. 14
  • 15. Professional Help – 2 Ways To Heal Trauma Clean Out the Container 15
  • 16. Effective PTSD Treatment  EMDR  REMAP Useful in Healing the Midbrain 16
  • 17. More Links to Info. & Articles Article: Overcoming a Firefighter’s Trauma Case Study SlideShare: PTSD War Trauma Treatment Case Studies SlideShare : Treating Domestic Violence PTSD Case Study Article: Soothing the Sympathetic Nervous System -- REMAP Research 17
  • 18. Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT Please Share & Like On Social Media 18
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