Psych Central

Secondary Trauma: Why It’s So Hard to Get Help

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

DSC01889It’s telling that the term secondary survivors is a little too broad: it can refer to professionals who hear traumatic stories, friends of trauma survivors, and I’ve also heard it incorrectly used to describe children who witness domestic violence (they are direct survivors, since any threat to a child’s caretaker is experienced as a threat to the child). In this blog post, the secondary survivors we’ll talk about are non-professional individuals who support survivors of trauma.

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Termination: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

DSC01516Termination has been on my mind because I have been ending with all of my clients for several weeks now. My partner’s work is relocating us to Ghana for two years and  I am leaving DC Rape Crisis Center next month. I’m grieving the loss of a wonderful place and also clients that it has been my privilege to serve. I can’t help but feel I’m leaving much work undone.  Even where there has been previously unimaginable progress, it hurts to think of saying goodbye to so many people and places and things all at once. I am still planning to write and work on trauma. And I have clients that I will never forget.

So ending therapy can hard for your therapist too. If it’s so unpleasant, why do we do this to ourselves? Because termination is an inevitable part of the relationship.  Unless both parties happen to die at the same time, at some point the therapeutic relationship has to end. There are many different reasons for this:

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3 Types of Rape Culture that Interfere with Trauma Recovery

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (among others). Don’t worry—not every post will be about that.  Wait—why would someone worry about this?  Is this not an appealing topic?  Is it hard to talk about?

I get it—sexual assault is not easy to think about: the actual event, the impact on others, accusations against respected figures. I think we can all agree we’d rather it just go away—the discussion at least. Except we know that the phenomenon isn’t going anywhere without the discussion.  Because the thing is: we do talk about sexual assault.  It’s just that for a long time, the discussion has been one-sided.

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An Invaluable Trauma Recovery Tool

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 10.10.42 AMNot everyone likes poetry.  Actually, I think a lot of us are conditioned to dislike it by how we’re taught in school.  But there can be a freedom in writing without worrying about whether it makes sense or is correct. A lot of clients that I have do want to tell their stories but struggle to do so whether with verbal or written language.  Others simply want to connect but don’t know how.

On my shelf sits a book called Holocaust Poetry. For those drawn to dark subjects or expressions of human resilience or morbidity or cross-cultural reads, this is an appealing collection. Despite Maslow’s assertions that people will fill deficiencies needs before aspiring to “higher level” needs like artistic endeavors, there were many Holocaust survivors who wrote poetry, or created visual art or played and wrote music. In fact, many trauma survivors create art borne out of their stories. Anna Jennings, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse produced brilliant works of art before her death at age 32.

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Does Post-Traumatic Growth Mean It Was All for the Best?

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

danorbit. via Compfight
Discomfort

I guess post-traumatic growth (PTG) is the technical term for “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” To be honest, every time I start to write about it, I feel uncomfortable. I get a sense that I’m betraying my clients, all survivors of sexual violence, to talk about the benefits of being assaulted. It’s not a phrase we throw around much where I work. It’s completely intuitive that there will be growth after any hardship, it’s just that there are also scars.

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4 Ways to Tell That Your Therapy Isn’t Working

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.36.09 PM

Sometimes we think that if we find a therapist with the right credentials, using the right type of technique, we’re all set.  Then we might be confused when it doesn’t feel right.  There are a lot of ways for therapists to fail clients.  Here are four that might indicate that your therapist is not listening, or connecting to you.

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Empathy’s Important Relationship with PTSD

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

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What is Psychological Debriefing?

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

Award Photography via CompfightIn the 1980’s and ‘90’s, there was an argument in vogue that people who had just experienced a traumatic event needed to debrief with someone in order to stave off PTSD symptoms.  To this day, trauma groups flock to the site of disasters and acts of terror to check in with survivors. But what are they doing?  And more importantly, is it helpful?

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