While much has been written about the negative impact on professionals who work with victims of sexual abuse/interpersonal trauma there has been limited exploration of the possible positive effects of such involvement. Silveira undertook qualitative research with such professionals using thematic analysis to try to increase our understanding of the possibility of the latter. She explored how working with trauma can foster vicarious resilience (VR) and how meeting with clients who themselves show resilience can have a positive knock on effect to counteract vicarious trauma (VT) and compassion fatigue (CF).
The concept of resilience is where an individual, who has experienced interpersonal trauma, nonetheless develops the ability to positively adapt. Existence or development of resilience does not however, minimise the trauma, its impact and long term consequences. Equally, resilience may well postdate the trauma and exposure to risk and be part of a later recovery process.
Silveira found that her cohort has an increased awareness of their own strengths and improved perspective on their own personal challenges as a result of observing the resilience of their clients. They also reported improved personal relationships as a consequence of their work with children and young people who had experienced trauma.
This study highlights how working in the field of trauma, in particular that of sexual abuse, is not exclusively negative. There are days when this may seem to be the case, especially when dealing with early disclosure and complex family scenarios. However, drawing on the positive accounts and the encouraging outcomes can help when the work is challenging. By focusing on the achievements of clients’ professionals can both help them, themselves and others as well as minimising and counteracting VT and CF.