Introduction Shared traumatic reality occurs when therapists are doubly exposed to a traumatic event, both through their clients’ experience, along with their own direct exposure. Studies have shown that a shared traumatic reality can lead to both positive and negative outcomes for therapists. Most studies have examined these reactions sometime after the end of the traumatic event, and less is known about reactions that occur during a traumatic event. In addition, most studies have assumed, rather than examined, indirect exposure. In this study, we extend this literature by examining direct and indirect exposure of therapists during a war situation, and their psychological reactions. Method Over a period of two months in 2014, 70% of the Israeli population was exposed to rocket fire. Geographical areas differed in terms of amount of exposure, and its potential danger. 151 therapists living throughout Israel were assessed via an Internet based survey in the middle of the war, and were assessed for the effects on their professional and personal lives, degree of burnout, ways of coping and symptoms levels of PTSD and psychological distress. Results These indicate that significant differences in direct exposure occurred depending on place of residence. PTSD levels were related to higher direct exposure, as well as prior trauma exposure, but not to indirect exposure. Indirect exposure, as measured by increased workload, was related to increased distress and emotional exhaustion. Discussion These data shed light on the effects of direct and indirect exposure to a shared traumatic experience of war amongst therapists. The data support previous studies showing a greater effect of direct exposure on PTSD. Since indirect exposure appears to negatively impact burnout and psychological distress, rather than PTSD, this study shows that symptoms other than PTSD should be the result of in a shared traumatic reality.
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© 2018 Freedman, Tuval Mashiach. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.