Untangling secondary traumatic stress and vicarious traumatization: One construct or two?

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Objective: This study examined whether secondary traumatic stress (STS), defined by the expanded DMS-5-TR's depiction of traumatic stress which includes negative mood/cognition symptoms, fully captures the reactions of indirect trauma exposure or if vicarious traumatization (VT) is still a useful and separate construct to assess for.

Method: An online survey was completed by 613 professionals working with individuals who experienced trauma. Correlations and network analysis were used to explore the overlap and distinctiveness of STS and VT reactions.

Results: High levels of STS and indirect trauma exposure were found in the current sample. A greater dose of daily indirect exposure was associated with a majority of STS and VT domains, and having less professional experience was associated with all STS and VT domains. Results of the network analysis suggested that STS and VT still continue to be unique yet related constructs.

Conclusions: Although the negative mood/cognition addition to STS may not fully capture or replace the phenomenon of VT, these additional STS symptoms may further connect the two constructs. This indicates that current measures of STS may capture some but not all of the cognitive impacts of indirect trauma exposure. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).