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Taking care? Recognize and Address Vicarious Trauma

“The world and enlightenment, they are one and the same.”  ~ Saichi

Jake looked dreadful. His usual light-hearted jovial glow was clouded and grey. He readily recognized that he was carrying the load of the stories he’d been hearing from folks affected by the fires here in the Great Smoky Mountains. Tears pouring down his cheeks, he described a scene of someone running with the fire behind them. Though he did not witness the scene, he was suffering the trauma vicariously. Using the fingertip method for treating trauma, within minutes, Jake was visibly relieved, his color restored and he was smiling.

It is easy for care providers to be a bit careless when it comes to our own needs. Take care. I mean that. Many of you are in East Tennessee. You know the fires have been devastating to our community. If you are not already hearing the stories of these folks, they may be coming your way. You very likely already hear other stories that carry trauma and unfathomable loss. If these stories are sticking to you. Take care.

Any one of us could have our brilliant light clouded by a network of vicarious trauma.


I pay attention to the four elements; thoughts, images, emotions, sensations.

If I am not present focused in my attention and find myself thinking of a snapshot story or running a narrative I’ve heard, I find the stickiness of the tethered energy, it’s like it doesn’t feel clean. That stickiness is an indication that I’ve picked up some vicarious trauma.

Or if I feel waves of emotional content accompanied with a thought of some person or people, I find the tethered energy. Of course, paying attention to the muscular tension in my body is a big source of information.

So how are you doing? Taking care? Part of enjoying a life long career is to avoid burnout. Vicarious trauma is a quick route to burnout. How do you recognize it in yourself. Once you find it, what do you do with it?

Give yourself a minute. Check in. How are you? Any sticky residue clouding your field? What’s the quickest way for you to release that? Exercise? Doodling? You could try the meditation from the most previous post.

I’ve supervised many therapists over the years. One of the common tendencies we seem to have, especially in the beginning of a career is not quite knowing how to let it go. It can be hard to leave work at work. You can use rituals to help. For instance, I turn on a salt lamp at the beginning of my day. At the end of the day, I turn off the candle with a kind of dandelion wish, as if I’m blowing the feathers of a dandelion as I silently begin lovingkindness while thinking of my clients. “May you be happy, May you have ease of being. May you be free from suffering …” The blessings change, but the sentiment is the same. My mother in law had a similar ritual. She used to say, “When my head hits the pillow, I say, ‘It’s all yours now, God. I did my best.”

Tending to our own needs makes us that much more fully available to those we serve. So, how are you doing? Taking care? Those of you who know the fingertip method, use it. Seriously, for the lasting effect, these five minutes are absolutely worth your time. I’ve done more trauma work in the last week than I have in the past year. I’ve used the fingertip method with myself to address the stickiness of what I’m encountering. Let me know how its going for you.

Take care. Seriously. I mean it. Take care.

P.S. I had big plans to announce an AAIT Immersive Learning Group and tell you guys more about it. Here’s the thing, we had a big fire here in our neck of the woods. My attention has been there, right now, I am just trying to coordinate a group of local therapists who can help. Many of you responded to that call. Thank you so much. It’s hard to say, just what the need will be and how we can plug in be as this unfolds.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you guys about the immersive learning group. I’m excited about it. I am absolutely convinced that it is THE best way to learn this ground-breaking approach. I will have info up on the website early next week. I’m happy to email you info if you would like it sooner. I’ve put the word out to just a few folks and the group is half filled. Just let me know and I’ll send you info. In the meantime, take care. Seriously.