College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; Applied Psychology and Counselor Education, Counselor Education and Supervision
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
In the United States, community-based victim services agencies commonly offer therapy services to survivors of interpersonal violence (Globokar et al., 2019; James & Eyjolfson, 2020; Langton, 2011). For mental health counselors and therapists working in victim services agencies and/or with survivors of interpersonal violence, indirect trauma is a known risk (Baird & Jenkins, 2003; Dworkin et al., 2016; Globokar et al., 2019; Kulkarni et al., 2013; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995; Sommer & Cox, 2005). Consequently, clinical supervisors of clinicians working with survivors of interpersonal violence must be prepared and able to effectively support clinicians in managing the impacts of engaging with traumatic material (Berger & Quiros, 2016; Etherington, 2009; Knight, 2018; Maghsoudi, 2020; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2014; Veach & Shilling, 2018). This necessitates an approach to clinical supervision that is consistent with principles of trauma-informed care so that supervisees can feel safe in exploring and processing their work (Berger & Quiros, 2016; Etherington, 2009; Knight, 2018; Maghsoudi, 2020; SAMHSA, 2014; Veach & Shilling, 2018). To create such a space for supervisees, clinical supervisors must have certain knowledge, skills, and traits (Berger & Quiros, 2014; Knight, 2018; SAMHSA, 2014; Veach & Shilling, 2018; West, 2010; Wymer et al., 2020); it also requires that clinical supervisors be able to recognize and manage their own indirect trauma responses (National Child Traumatic Stress Network Secondary Traumatic Stress [NCTSN STS] Collaborative Group, 2018b). Although clinical supervisors must be able to notice and address indirect trauma they experience in response to being indirectly exposed to trauma in their work (NCTSN STS Collaborative Group, 2018b), the phenomenon of indirect trauma has scarcely been explored as it relates to clinical supervisors (Jett, 2015). Considering the responsibility clinical supervisors have in supporting the well-being of both their supervisees and the clients of their supervisees (American Counseling Association, 2014; Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, 2011; Bernard & Goodyear, 2009), it is important to increase awareness of the specific ways in which clinical supervisors are affected by and manage indirect encounters with traumatic material. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to describe the ways in which clinical supervisors are affected by indirect exposure to trauma occurring in the context of their work at a victim services agency specialized in working with survivors of interpersonal violence. To gain insight into this topic, the experiences of seven clinical supervisors working in victim services agencies were explored. Through individual interviews, questionnaires, document collection, and measures of indirect trauma among the participants’ supervisees, themes relating to multiple aspects of clinical supervisors’ experiences with indirect exposure to trauma emerged. These themes fell under three broad categories: 1) influential factors, which were the factors found to influence clinical supervisors’ experiences when indirectly exposed to trauma; 2) impacts, which were the effects of indirect exposure to trauma described by the participants; and, 3) coping, which included the ways in which clinical supervisors attempted to manage the impacts of indirect exposure to trauma. The findings in this study have implications for clinical supervisors by offering insight into potential signs of indirect trauma among clinical supervisors and effective ways of coping with indirect exposure to trauma as a clinical supervisor. Implications for the counseling field and counselor educators were also identified, specifically as related to the educational and training needs of clinical supervisors, as well as other resources and supports that are important for clinical supervisors in managing the effects of indirect exposure to trauma.
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