It is common knowledge among we who work in the field of trauma that a predominance of trauma exists in those who are trauma-caregivers. In other words, those who are motivated to work with individuals who have been victims of trauma have typically had their own history of trauma.
People who have been traumatized can help others who have been traumatized.
Our dear friend Dr. Sandy Bloom, an internationally renowned author and speaker on trauma once conducted a study of 350 social service professionals. Here is what she found:
- 10% had a family household member who was imprisoned
- 37% had been psychologically abused by their parents
- 29% had been physically abused by their parents
- 25% had been sexually abused
- 35% had experienced emotional neglect
- 12% had experienced physical neglect
- 21% had witnessed domestic violence
- 41% had been separated from one of their parents
- 40% had been a substance abuser
Many in our field have high Adverse Childhood Experiences scores.
Their ACEs’ experiences have driven them to help others who have had similar experiences.
Because they identify emotionally and relationally with traumatized individuals, they are empathetic to the needs of other traumatized people. So, it is no wonder they dedicate their life’s work to helping other trauma victims cope and heal.
However, we have found these devoted, diligent and committed people often have their own unresolved trauma and can be easily triggered themselves.
It is compelling to realize professionals with their own trauma are the ones who we are asking to help others with their trauma.
Even during our trauma training sessions, the first issues often discovered are the participant’s unresolved trauma issues. They have their own journey of learning about trauma while they are learning about how to help others.
This reason underlies why it is so important to have seasoned trauma co-trainers who can guide the trauma trainers-to-be through the healing process, provide support, and direct them to the right kind of help.
As we travel throughout the trauma field, this reality is glaringly apparent.
Whether we are training early childhood workers, teachers, counselors, social workers, juvenile justice staff, or others, we realize our trauma caregivers are dealing with their past and are being re-traumatized by their clients.
It is difficult to deal with traumatized individuals each and every day, but when there is the complicating factor of dealing with your own trauma, burn-out and levels of chronic stress can be the result.
Any time we approach a community of trauma caregivers, we need to be sensitive to their personal trauma as well as the vicarious trauma they experience when dealing with those in their care.
It means we are careful in our training classes. We are also supportive of their processing. Plus, there is on-going support in their network of professional development from colleagues who can offer ongoing training and processing so they can continue to be healthy in their career and lives.
We want to respect those who are giving so sacrificially to help trauma victims cope and heal.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside