Trap of Conflicting Needs: Helping Professionals in the Wake of a Shared Traumatic Reality

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Abstract

Many professionals working in the wake of communal disasters are doubly exposed to the disaster, both as professionals and as members of the stricken community. Yet most studies of widely reported distress of these professionals examine manifestations like compassion fatigue, secondary traumatization, and vicarious traumatization, which do not take this double exposure into account. Moreover, these measures reflect the assumption that their distress is rooted in empathy with their clients or helpees. This paper argues that at least some of their distress derives from a self-perceived lapse of empathy. It contends that professionals living and working in a disaster stricken community are caught in a trap of conflicting inner needs stemming from the defenses they mobilize to cope with the heightened mortality salience aroused by communal disasters. Furthermore, it proposes an etiology of their distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Social Work Journal
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Keywords

  • Communal disaster
  • Conflicting needs
  • Double exposure
  • Helping professionals
  • Mortality salience
  • Shared trauma

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