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An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the volunteer crisis centre counsellor’s experience of working with victims of crime.

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Objective: It has been argued that vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress (compassion fatigue), burnout and countertransference reactions represent normal responses in helpingindividuals who work with traumatised individuals. In the literature these phenomena have been broadly termed ‘the cost of caring’ (McCann & Pearlmann, 1990). In addition to the cost of caring, the positive effects of working with traumatised individuals have been explored, largely through the use of the concepts of vicarious resilience and compassion satisfaction (Hunter, 2012). The present study aimed to understand the relevance of these phenomena to volunteers of a community-based crisis intervention initiative by exploring their lived experiences, describing the impact (both positive and negative) that their trauma work has on them, and identifying the coping strategies and resources that are used in order to prevent, and/or mitigate, any possible negative effects, and to enhance any possible positive effects. Method: A qualitative methodological orientation was used for the present study in the form of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Qualitative data were collected from six participants through the use of focused interviews and analysed using thematic analysis, in line with the IPA approach. Results: Six superordinate themes emerged: 1) Reasons for joining, 2) Previous training and experience, 3) Personal history of trauma, 4) The costs of volunteering in the field of trauma work, 5) The rewards of volunteering in the field of trauma work, and 6) Coping strategies. Conclusions: The results of the present study provide support for the pathogenic/salutogenic paradox that has been identified in the research literature. It has been suggested that these two perspectives are not at odds, but that they are instead complementary, and illustrate the idiosyncrasies that are involved in the field of trauma work. Keywords: vicarious trauma; secondary traumatic stress; burnout; vicarious resilience; compassion satisfaction; debriefing; qualitative; interpretative phenomenological analysis; lay counsellors


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.