Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Lisa Lopez Levers

Committee Member

Emma Mosley

Committee Member

Robert T. Hauman


Psychotraumatology, Residential mental health treatment, Salutogenics, Trauma, Vicarious posttraumatic growth, Vicarious trauma


Examination of the work of providing trauma-focused treatment has been, heretofore, accomplished primarily through a lens of pathology. It cannot be ignored that many professionals who work with traumatized individuals suffer negative effects. What has been discounted is the experience of individuals who experience negative effects and also experience psychological benefit and personal growth from their work with trauma survivors. Literature regarding vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress is abundant, but few studies have been conducted that have been specifically designed to explore the experience of vicarious posttraumatic growth in providers of psychotraumatology.

In order to add to the insubstantial body of research that examines the phenomenon of vicarious posttraumatic growth, this study sought to illuminate the lived experiences of mental health professionals who work on a day-to-day basis with multiply traumatized children and adolescents, and as a result, experience measurably high levels of vicarious trauma and compassion satisfaction. The study sought to explore benefit finding and vicarious positive effects of working with traumatized children. Additionally, this inquiry explored the perceptions and attitudes of the workers with respect to job satisfaction, employment longevity, and the meaning they found in their work. This qualitative, phenomenological investigation was conducted through two individual interviews and two focus groups comprised of a total of 12 people who were employed in a residential treatment facility for children. The results of the study identify themes that address the workers' role identification, protective factors against vicarious trauma, vicarious traumatization, positive effects of the work, and vicarious post traumatic growth. The implications of the study for the field of mental health treatment and suggestions for further research are provided.