Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Secondary Trauma

As many have noticed from the news, there was a severe tragedy occurred yesterday at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, UT. An armed gunman opened fire killing five people and injuring more. I heard on the radio that four or five that were injured were in stable condition, although they were watching them heavily in the ICU. Our hearts go out to them and their families and friends. Our hearts also go out to those that witnessed the atrocity, or were involved in any way. It is possible that they will suffer from secondary trauma. Primary trauma occurs when an individual is the actual victim or experiences personally the trauma. Secondary trauma occurs to a witness. Let's review what trauma means. Webster's online dictionary states: 1 a : an injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent b : a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury c : an emotional upset.
Obviously the first definition is primary. The second and third can be either primary or secondary. the unfortunate aspect of secondary trauma is that it can have the same or similar psychological effects as the primary victims. Flashbacks, paranoia symptoms, fear, nightmares, high anxiety, avoidance behaviors, etc. It can happen with any trauma, but doesn't necessarily mean that it will.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back In Action

After having taken a break from writing for a time I'm back in the saddle and ready to ride. Still working hard with many clients and even more paperwork. I have several clients who are beginning to improve and some that continue to struggle. The situations that bother me the most are those that are avoidant or resistant. They come in all ages and from all kinds of circumstances. The common characteristics is their resistance to change, or avoidance of addressing the core problems. These clients are simply not ready to be in counseling for themselves. Many times they are being forced by the courts, an upset parent/caregiver, or a loved-one to be in counseling. It goes against their free-will to be here, thus canceling the single greatest power for change--CHOICE. Some parents bring their children in who are acting out behaviorally and say "FIX THEM!" Usually, the problem is not one that can be fixed on an individual basis, but rather a family basis. It is usually the parents with the problem and the children are the symptom. At times it is the parents that are resistant to change, thus the children don't get any better. Or, due to behavioral modeling the children begin to follow in mom and dad's footsteps--forging a path of deviant behaviors. Deviant, meaning that it deviates from the norm and is self-destructive. I'm perplexed at how to address this population, because there are so many. I know that it is not possible to force my will on to them and make them change and see the light, so to speak. How can the avoidant and resistant clients change? With time, hopefully.