Vicarious Trauma in Attorneys

Authors: Dr. Andrew Levin & Scott Greisberg, MA

Although secondary trauma and burnout have been the subject of investigation in emergency workers and mental health professionals, no systematic studies have evaluated these responses in attorneys. Growing out of our collaboration with the Pace Women’s Justice Center, we designed a survey to assess the presence of secondary trauma responses and symptoms of burnout in attorneys working with victims of domestic violence and criminal defendants. Compared with two control groups consisting of mental health providers and social services workers, attorneys surveyed demonstrated significantly higher levels of secondary traumatic stress and burnout. This difference appeared related to the attorneys' higher caseloads and lack of supervision around trauma and its effects. These findings create a starting point for further study into attorney responses and methods of ameliorating the stress of work with traumatized clients.

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Submitted by: Joyce Boaz
Submitted on: 10-Dec-2004