Tips For Coping With Vicarious Trauma

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Caring for the dignity of abused children on a daily basis is emotionally strenuous.

"I Feel You: The Effects of Vicarious Trauma" was the subject of a recent morning workshop given for child care providers in government, community and teaching positions.

"What types of stories have you heard that have affected you emotionally," Lourdes Lopez-Escobar, a child care support specialist with Easter Seals asked the several dozen assembled.

The sharing was confidential, the victims nameless. No names were attached to the often horrific stories participants related, such as a boy locked in a basement and sodomized or an expert witness on domestic violence found guilty of that crime against his wife.

"People don't want to believe these things happen, maybe right next door," one participant said.

The effects of vicarious trauma are cumulative and build upon memories obtained through listening to one traumatic story after another, according to the workshop handouts.

Individual effects can be life changing.

Supportive workplace strategies include sharing ideas, respecting each other's feeling and being willing to ask for and give help.

Participants received a handout to assess their self-care in five areas -- physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and professional/workplace.

A few of those tips:

  • surround yourself with people who re-energize you
  • remember you don't have all the answers
  • allow yourself to cry
  • find things that make you laugh
  • do something at which you are not an expert or in charge of
  • get enough sleep
  • set boundaries

"These are fundamental. There are no revelations," Lopez-Escobar said.

"You pick your joys. Even driving home through the pines can be a joy," a participant added.

Recognitions

CASA program manager Bonnie Marcus and Judge Peter Cahill commended all the people who are involved in helping people in Gila County.

Nancy Althoff, Pat Johnson, Tom and Susie Belcher, Josie Castillo and Luetta Danforth were recognized for their compassionate service at a recent child advocacy training luncheon.

Althoff started the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in northern Gila County in 1992. She left the program for a few years, then in 2001 returned as a volunteer.

The last case she worked on lasted four-and-a-half years and ended in a reunification of the family.

"Those kids are now active adults but they stay in contact with Nancy," CASA director Katrisha Stuler said.

Currently, Althoff is a mentor for new CASAs in the county.

Marcus awarded Danforth, a CASA from Globe/Miami for her "extensive" advocacy on behalf of a teenager who entered the court system as a delinquent. Six months, 168 hours of time and 1,629 miles later, the teen's school attendance, attention and self-esteem had improved so drastically, the delinquency charge was dropped by the court.

Tom and Susie Belcher have been foster parents to five children over the past 11 years while raising four children of their own. Kelli Schuttinga, a foster care licensing specialist with Arizona's Children Association, honored the Belchers with a "dinner without the children" gift certificate to Main Street Grille.

Stuler honored Pat Johnson of Rim Country Arizonans for Children for always coming though with tangible items for a child in need, "often within two hours."

"I just get the fun job of signing checks and I love to shop for them," Johnson said.

Josie Castillo, Stuler's right hand in the CASA office also received a gift bag for her service.

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