Who helps the helper? Differentiation of self as an indicator for resisting vicarious traumatization

Eytan Halevi, Yael Idisis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: This study comprises a first attempt to explain and predict vicarious traumatization among therapists by means of Bowen's Family Systems Theory (Bowen, 1978), especially with reference to the phenomenon "differentiation of self," a central feature of his theory. Method: A sample of 134 individual and group therapists who work in public and private clinics completed a series of questionnaires that provided data regarding demographic information, differentiation of self, and a belief scale that measures the existence of vicarious trauma. Results: The findings indicate a strong negative correlation between vicarious traumatization and differentiation of self. In addition, participant age and "being in therapy" were both found to correlate with differentiation of self and vicarious traumatization. Conclusion: These findings point to the importance of differentiation of self as a resilience factor protecting against vicarious trauma, and have the potential to contribute to the development of tools for efficiently and accurately assessing predisposition toward vicarious traumatization among therapists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-705
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Differentiation of self
  • Psychotherapy
  • Trauma therapists
  • Vicarious traumatization


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