How to Maintain Emotional Health When Working with Trauma
By Joy D. Osofsky, Frank W. Putnam, and Judge Cindy S. Lederman
Vicarious traumatization, compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatization refers to the cumulative effect of working with survivors of traumatic life events as part of everyday work. Although this issue has been acknowledged and addressed among professionals such as police officers and medical professionals, it has been discussed less among juvenile and family court judges who also experience secondary traumatic stress. In fact, in one recent study, a majority of judges reported one or more symptoms of secondary traumatization. This article describes the common signs and symptoms of secondary trauma, job-related factors that contribute to secondary trauma among judges, and the potential negative impact on organizational performance. The authors conclude with specific recommendations tailored for juvenile and family court judges.
Explanation of Dissociation
Dissociation is defined as a disruption in the usually integrative functions of consciousness, memory, identity and/or perception (DSM-IV-TR, page 519). Clinical research has consistently found that a high level of dissociation is significantly associated with major psychopathology. In some instances, this takes the form of a DSM-defined dissociative disorder. In other instances, the dissociation is associated with another DSM diagnosis such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Somatization Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder or Acute Stress Disorder. High levels of dissociation have also been repeatedly found to be associated with antecedent experiences of trauma and life-threatening experiences. It is important to screen for dissociation in psychiatric patients and traumatized individuals as the presence of a high level may inform clinical care as well as help to identify an unrecognized dissociative disorder which requires specialized treatment.