The vicarious effects of treating female rape survivors: The therapist's perspective

Jennifer Anne Lobel, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Literature that describes therapists who treat sexual offenders (Farrenkopf, 1992) and incest survivors (Hollingsworth, 1993; McCann & Pearlman, 1990a, 1990b; Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1993) indicates that these trauma workers' cognitive schemata may negatively change as a result of repeated exposure to traumatic material. This process is known as vicarious traumatization (McCann & Pearlman, 1990a, 1990b). The present investigation has attempted to examine and document the incidence of both vicarious traumatization and positive outcomes for therapists treating rape survivors.^ This was a qualitative investigation employing semi-structured and open ended interviews with 10 therapists who treat women raped in adulthood. The participants' interviews, once transcribed, summarized, and analyzed, were returned to them for their verification. A focus group was assembled with three of the participants for further explanation of the data. A co-researcher was employed to bolster the authenticity of the findings. Responses were rated as either positive, negative, mixed, or no change. This study found that seven out of ten participants do experience negative long-term changes in some of their cognitive schemata, thus supporting McCann and Pearlman's model of vicarious traumatization. Three participants reported no vicarious traumatization. Moreover, eight out of ten participants cited positive formulations in some of their cognitive schemata. The most frequently reported was that the work elicited no change in cognitive schemata. The most frequently reported was that the work elicited no change in the schemata as cited by nine of ten participants. Of those who reported change, overall, therapists were more positively than negatively affected by their work. The following are the patterns of change: (1) The most commonly reported positive formulation was found in the esteem schema. (2) The most commonly reported negative change was in the frame of reference schema. (3) Vicarious enrichment was found which refers to the positive effects the participants experienced from their work.^ An educational model is presented as a beginning step both to mitigate negative disturbances in trauma workers and to disseminate information concerning positive formulations. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Jennifer Anne Lobel, "The vicarious effects of treating female rape survivors: The therapist's perspective" (January 1, 1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9712968.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9712968

Share

COinS