Those who assist others in the aftermath of group violence or community disaster are vulnerable to work stress, burnout, and vicarious traumatization. ln addition, national staff, those who assist in their own countries, may struggle with retraumatization as a result of their aid efforts. In this presentation, I will discuss work-related psychological vulnerabilities among aid workers as well as what we can extrapolate from relevant research and field experience about increasing resilience and mitigating and transforming vicarious trauma in this population. Research with humanitarian workers has clearly established the psychological stress that this population experiences.
This stress takes the form of trauma symptoms and adaptations, including and beyond posttraumatic stress disorder. Research in this population also suggests both individual and organizational resilience factors that can support and strengthen humanitarian workers psychologically. Suggestions about helping aid workers mitigate their indirect or vicarious trauma come from two bodies of work; The first, “psychological first aid” (PFA) has not yet been evaluated with aid workers, yet may be extended to it on theoretical grounds. Core principles of PFA include connection with others, validation, and security, as well as providing information about care, should it be needed. The foundational elements for transforming vicarious trauma are self-awareness, meaning, community, and personal growth. The presentation will include theory-based recommendations for aid worker self-care to promote resilience.
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