Carl Jung (1954) said, “You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence.” When engaging with clients who have experienced trauma, practitioners are vulnerable to being impacted by the clients’ experiences. Exposure to multiple client stories of significant traumatic events can prompt a shift in the way practitioners view the world. What once seemed like a safe place may now seem like a world full of personal threat. Practitioners may become suspicious of the intentions of others or hypervigilant regarding potential danger (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995).
These shifts in cognitive schemas are a result of vicarious trauma (VT). VT, also known as secondary traumatic stress, can happen as a result of the empathic engagement with clients who have traumatic histories (Neumann & Gamble, 1995). In the 1920s, Alfred Adler defined empathy as seeing through the eyes of another, hearing through the ears of another, and understanding with the heart of another. When helping professionals experience empathy with clients, they vicariously experience clients’ trauma.
Countertransference is distinct from VT in that it is based solely upon the practitioner’s own idiosyncratic experiences. For instance, it is possible to attribute characteristics of persons from a practitioner’s personal life to clients. Experiencing VT can activate and shape the experiences of countertransference for a professional. Both VT and countertransference have ethical implications of which practitioners need to be cognizant.
For this Discussion, read the case study Anna in this week’s resources, focusing on indications of VT and/or countertransference. Reflect on both VT and countertransference: the indications and implications of each for both the practitioner and the client as well as what ethical breaches might occur as a result of each
Provide a brief description of three indications of vicarious trauma and/or countertransference presented in the case study. Then, for each, explain the implications for both practitioner and client. Finally, explain what specific breaches of ethics might occur as a result of vicarious trauma and/or countertransference.