School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Kelly Orr


traumatization, trauma therapy, PTSD, vicarious trauma, vicarious healing, spirituality




Several studies have evaluated the emotional burden added to therapists who are treating traumatized individuals. However, little research has been done to determine how to mitigate the secondary trauma in clinicians within the therapeutic environment during counseling sessions. An exploration of change theory can be applied to understand why secular therapists experience resilience and growth at different times or not at all. However, this intersection lacks a spiritual component that is present for Christian therapists to heal from this trauma during in-person sessions. The present study aims to explore this intersection of change theory with posttraumatic growth and vicarious resilience. The study also discusses the possible differences between secular therapist growth and Christian therapist vicarious healing. Vicarious healing (VH) in psychotherapy takes place when the therapist (a) is transformed through the Holy Spirit; (b) experiences insight and the sharing of sacred space; (c) experiences the integration of growth through mind, body, and spirit engagement; (d) encounters permanent change; and (e) views self as an agent of healing for the client. Where posttraumatic growth involves psychological growth, vicarious healing encompasses the soul and spirit of the therapist. Qualitative data were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews with 26 self-identified trauma therapists. The data were transcribed verbatim and were then analyzed using a grounded theory methodology. This finding expands the human understanding of the occupational benefits of the helping profession by revealing another dimension of clinicians’ lives—that of the soul or spirit--which may be affected by their therapeutic work with trauma survivors. Implications for practice emphasize the need for the addition of spiritual guidance during the collegiate training of Christian therapists.

Included in

Counseling Commons