Secondary Traumatic Stress
Counselors, Nurses, Physicians, and Others
Counselors, nurses, physicians, and others who care for those who have been traumatized are vulnerable to a condition that has been called Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS). Other terms used are Vicarious Trauma (VT), Compassion Fatigue (CT), and in some cases, Job Burnout. Often, the above terms are used interchangeably. Additionally, family members who care for those with PTSD are also at risk of the condition. There is agreement that STS occurs through secondary contact with those who have directly suffered from traumatic experience(s). In contrast, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops among some who directly experience traumatic situations such as accidents, natural disasters, or war-related encounters.
Upwards of 67% of counselors who treat trauma patients develop STS, which significantly shortens their professional careers. Among emergency room nurses, research reveals that 85% find themselves at risk for arousal, intrusion, and avoidance symptoms. Finally, 39% of spouses of those with PTSD suffer from the full STS condition.
This secondary experience exacts a tremendous emotional and financial toll among those who are linked with or close to a traumatized person. Unfortunately, the way that the condition originates remains unknown. However, we propose that it is conveyed through a brainwave entrainment process. In other words, the brain of the PTSD affected person influences the brain of the empathic person through ongoing exposure gradually reshaping its inner cortical network. Within this context, empathy refers to the capacity to sense other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.
To clarify with a mechanical example, Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens in 1657, witnessed a peculiar effect in pendulum clocks hanging side by side on his bedroom wall. He referred to this incident as an “odd kind of sympathy” when two similar clocks were placed close to each other. He noticed that after some time, the pendulums would swing in exactly opposite directions. We believe that empathic humans also have an “odd kind of sympathy” with traumatized individuals.
Among infants and mothers, the term Synchrony is the progressive patterning of the infant’s brain with the mother’s socialization patterns. Another way of understanding this term derives from the word synchronous, meaning that the interaction occurs at the same time. Advances in the dual use of EEG, fMRI, etc., now include analysis of brain-wave interactional patterns thereby revealing the mutual effects that inter-communication elicits. This relatively unknown procedure is called Hyperscanning.
The effects of this interaction gradually emerge between the new-born and the primary parent. Weakened interactions between the infant and parent produce lower levels of synchrony. This occurs among those parents with higher aggression/anger levels. The effect on the child is associated with increased infant irritability. Furthermore, in pre-term infants, researchers have found shortened infant’s episodes of gaze towards the mother. Additionally, varied levels of mother and infant bonding include reduced levels of responsivity towards each other.
I am excited to inform you that although PTSD and STS differ in their origin, they both respond to RESET therapy rapidly. I am now treating the Secondary Traumatic Stress condition for therapists, first responders, and others through telecommunication, one on one contact. If you know of a colleague with STS issues please let them know of this remediative option. Additionally, I now provide training (in-person and remotely) to mental health professionals in applying RESET therapy to trauma remediation in their client/patient population. Finally, I am also applying RESET therapy for Attachment Disorder (AD) issues both in children as well as adults impaired by this condition. With children, coaching focuses on training the parents to deliver the intervention. Interestingly, many of these parents have attachment issues themselves. Thus, the treatment design is to enhance the vitality of the entire family. Below you will find links to varied articles, books and book chapter of materials that pertain to RESET therapy.
Book Chapter: Photobiomodulation in the Brain (Editors Michael Hamblin & Y. Y. Huang) Signature Wounds of War: A Case Study.