The perceptions and experiences of mental health professionals involved in the response and recovery following the April 16th, 2007 campus shootings at Virginia Tech
Day, Kristen Wallace
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The breadth of interpersonal violence is continuously expanding. According to Broman- Fulks et al. (2006), current epidemiological studies estimate that between 50% and 70% of individuals in the United States have experienced some form of interpersonal violence during their lifetime. The occurrence of â traumatic incidents may create powerful affective responses in those who rescue, care for, and counsel the individuals directly affectedâ (Wilson & Lindy, 1994, p. 333). This emotional reactivity is especially prevalent among those that work with survivors of violent traumatic events (McCann & Pearlman, 1990). The variety of issues that mental health professionals encounter are multidimensional and include their work context, characteristics of their clients, and therapist variables. Due to such complexity, it is critical to consider the broad ramifications and scope of professional quality of life when addressing the outcomes of trauma work on mental health professionals. The purpose of this study was to analyze, through qualitative methodology, the professional quality of life of mental health professionals directly involved in the recovery efforts after the campus shootings that occurred at Virginia Tech on April 16th, 2007. A phenomenological research design was used to gather information regarding the experiences and perceptions of various mental health professionals. Two in-depth interviews were conducted to examine therapistsâ experiences regarding the vicarious exposure and growth potential involved in this work. Analysis from the data revealed two primary themes; changed perception due to shared traumatic exposure and the costs and benefits derived from trauma work. These themes depicted the professional consequences for mental health workers who have been directly affected by traumatic events and serve clients exposed to the same event. Findings indicate that self-awareness is a critical component to enhancing therapeutic lenses and professional and personal wellness. Further research considering the influence of shared exposure to trauma on mental health professionals could further our understanding of the professional and personal consequences of such work. This research could provide a guide for preparing current and future counselors and supervisors when working during times of crisis.
- Doctoral Dissertations