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Hidden Victims in Social Work Practice with Traumatized Populations: Predictive Factors of Secondary Traumatic Stress for Social Workers in New York City

Kanno, Hanae (2010) Hidden Victims in Social Work Practice with Traumatized Populations: Predictive Factors of Secondary Traumatic Stress for Social Workers in New York City. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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When social workers empathically engage with their clients' traumatic recollections, they sometimes experience strong emotional reactions, such as grief or rage. These reactions may reflect secondary traumatic stress, i.e. negative emotional reactions resulting from knowledge of traumatizing events experienced by others. Many clinical social workers in New York City who provided counseling, debriefing and support to 9/11/01 witnesses, survivors, victims' family members, and rescue workers were at risk for developing secondary traumatic stress, with such risk elevated by their personal experiences of stress during and following the terrorist attacks. This study explored predictive factors of secondary traumatic stress for social workers assisting 9/11/01 clients, including extent of exposure to traumatized clients, and protective factors that were tested as direct and interactive (buffering) influences. These effects were tested controlling for demographic factors (age, marital status, income, hours per week in the field, and years in the field). Data, in which Doctoral and MSW level members of the Manhattan Chapter of the NASW (N=1257) were surveyed, were drawn from the Post 9/11/01 Quality of Professional Practice Survey (Tosone & Moore, 2007), yielding a 38% return rate (N=481). The primary independent variable, exposure to trauma in practice was measured by a block of three indicators: being 9/11/01 mental health provider/total work hours of exposure to 9/11/01 related events, percent of time working with traumatized clients generally, and number of different types of trauma client worked with. Hierarchical multiple regressions of secondary traumatic stress symptoms included a block of controls, the exposure block, and additional protective variables (receiving supervision, peer support, family and friend support, disaster training before and after 9/11/01) examined separately for their direct and interactive effects with exposure. The results indicated that social workers' level of exposure to traumatized clients significantly increased secondary traumatic stress. Also, peer support marginally buffered the negative consequences of trauma exposure. Further, older and more experienced social workers had somewhat lower levels of secondary traumatic stress, at least in part because they had less exposure to traumatized clients; older and more experienced workers may have been more negatively impacted by exposure to traumatized clients. The results have implications for all direct providers who may experience secondary traumatic stress symptoms: administrators and practitioners in social agencies, clinics, and hospitals; the findings also apply to students in schools of social work who need to learn how to effective treat traumatized clients.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairNewhill, Christinanewhill@pitt.eduNEWHILL
Committee CoChairKoeske, Gary Fgkoeske@pitt.eduGKOESKE
Committee MemberFrieze, Irene Hfrieze@pitt.eduFRIEZE
Committee MemberFusco, Rachelraf45@pitt.eduRAF45
Date: 13 August 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 27 May 2010
Approval Date: 13 August 2010
Submission Date: 12 August 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: September 11; New York City; Secondary Traumatic Stress; Victims; Traumatized Populations; Social Workers
Other ID:, etd-08122010-001253
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:59
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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