Date of Award

Winter 12-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Roberta G. Sands, Ph. D

Second Advisor

Christine Courtois, Ph. D

Third Advisor

Jane Abrams, DSW


This qualitative study explored with 15 social workers the positive reactions they experienced in their work with traumatized clients. All the interviewees described their positive reactions, growth, and satisfaction with their work. The social workers’ level of experience influenced the timing of their positive reactions and contributed to their confidence and timing in their clinical work with traumatized clients.

Participants also experienced negative reactions from their work with traumatized clients but their positive reactions seemed to help them to increase their resiliency in their work. The study also found most social workers reported using an evidence-based treatment and described an eclectic, relational framework in their work with traumatized clients.

Organizational components which contributed the social workers’ positive reactions in their work consisted of trauma-informed supervision, trainings, shared mission between social worker and organization, and strong staff morale. Trauma-informed supervision is a term developed from this study’s findings and refers to incorporating elements of trauma-informed care in the supervisory setting. Personal components identified by the social workers were the use of trauma skills and interventions for personal coping, varied jobs and varied activities within the same job, hobbies, and a clear division between professional and personal life. All of the interviewees planned to continue doing trauma work in the future. Younger social workers reported they wanted to pass their clinical license exam and enter into private practice. Social workers who had been in the field longer reported wanting to do macro trauma work with larger populations. Implications for practice, research, and organizations are discussed.

Included in

Social Work Commons