Vicarious trauma and youth workers: a recipe for disaster.

Today I was reflecting on my career and the major traumatic events that I have seen. I was speaking to a class of school chaplains looking at trauma and abuse. As I was reflecting it dawned on me how many truly traumatised people I have come across. On average two suicides a year, more sexually abused young people than I care to recall, many drug and alcohol abusers and self harmers to name a few.  
When I got home I started to think of the many times I have struggled with the traumas of others. This vicarious trauma has almost taken me out of action on a number of occasions, mostly because of a lack of training and supervision. The biggest issue however, is that I care. When a traumatic event happens I actually give a crap. And this is the problem with our profession. Those who give a crap will always be at the mercy of vicarious trauma if they are not supervised and supported.
Today my class of chaplains looked at what trauma is, how it affects people and how to support people through trauma. What was lacking in the training was how as workers we deal with the vicarious trauma when it affects us. As a sector we need to develop a philosophy of self care that starts in the training rooms and lecture halls and follows us through to the end of our careers.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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  3. Yes, it’s really hard to maintain healthy boundaries and still have a heart that beats with compassion. Pull too hard one way or the other and you can easily lose either emotional health or the care that you need. In the counselling profession it is considered essential to have ongoing supervision to ensure that you are functioning in the healthiest way possible. I wonder if there is a perception that we don’t need this that needs changing with regards to youth work?

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