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The Cost of Caring:
Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Impact of Working with High-Risk Children and Families

 


 
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Lesson 1: Introduction to Secondary Trauma

Assignment 1

Impact and Expression

For reasons we do not completely understand, when someone writes or talks about a traumatic event, it has positive and healing effects. This recollection and review process is one we all use. Consider, for example, how the mother of a newborn tells again and again the narrative of the birth, or how we review with friends and colleagues selective elements of a confrontation with a supervisor or co-worker.

It is as if our mind is forcing us to review, re-experience, and catalog the event, trying to make sense of what happened. The more disturbing or uncontrollable the event, the more your mind will return to the experience and review it in your thoughts, conversations, writings, drawings, and all forms of expression.

In this exercise, select an event from your life that you have found yourself returning to again and again: a loss, a separation from a loved one, a traumatic event. Think about this experience and how you coped. Who did you talk with, how did it come back, what helped you, what didn’t help? What would you recommend to someone trying to provide support, direction, and help?

Use a pen and paper, or just write this in a blank computer file. This is a safe place to express your feelings and thoughts in any form you desire, as this exercise will not be read by anyone but you. Don’t worry about sentence structure; there is no right or wrong here. The important thing is to spend about 15-20 minutes meditating upon your own connection to childhood trauma and why this topic is important to you.

What’s Out There?

How can you get help for a traumatized child? Where are the resources for traumatized children in your community?

Check out your town or city’s Yellow Pages telephone directory. Check under as many headings as you can think of; search for agencies or other organizations that provide services, support, or referrals for people dealing with childhood trauma. Challenge yourself to come up with as many options as possible. Don’t just limit yourself to looking under "C" for child and "T" for trauma! No using the Internet for this assignment either, that’s cheating! See what you can find by simply utilizing the phone directory.

If you live in a rural area and can’t find anything, don’t worry. The point of this exercise is to see what’s easily found in your own community.


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