Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Disasters Cause Symptoms in Therapists of Victims

A small exploratory study of clinicians who provided mental health services after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York found that they experienced “intense and unprecedented” secondary traumatic stress symptoms. Those symptoms may arise when psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, or other therapists react to their exposure to the pain and suffering of others.

“[Symptom] levels among clinicians who provided care to victims of 9/11 were high 30 months after the attacks,” wrote Mary Pulido, Ph.D., of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the U.S., published online in the Clinical Social Work Journal.

Pulido attributes some of these reactions to a lack of experience in disaster relief mental health care. “For many professionals, these interviews, conducted several years after the attacks, served as the first time they had discussed their 9/11 work and the stresses they encountered,” said Pulido. “This factor alone speaks volumes for the lack of support that they received while providing such intense clinical support for their clients.”

For more about preparing for and responding to mental health aspects of disasters, see the American Psychiatric Publishing book, DisasterPsychiatry: Readiness, Evaluation, and Treatment.

(Image: Jonathan Haviv/Shutterstock)


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