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Case Studies: Posttraumatic Care and Burnout

Case #1: During the 1989 Phillips Petroleum plant explosions in Pasadena, Texas, Lloyd, along with numerous medical, psychiatric and emergency personnel worked around the clock for 90 days to provide counseling and supportive measures to more than 100 employee and their families. 

Six months to one year later, after lives were on track, depression set in for many workers.  Survivors returned for help, just when life was “supposed to be normal.” And physicians and counselors reported a low-grade fatigue.  Post-traumatic stress affects the healer as well as the healed.46

Case #2: Suzanne is a 51-year old counselor who specializes in working with addicts in NYC.  During her 11 years in corrections, she has become aware that most of the women in the facility have a history of sexual abuse and many have used substances to numb out and block the memories of their abuse.  Suzanne believes treatment for many of the women inmates should be trauma-focused with addictions treated as a condition.  She has become increasingly disillusioned with her job, and would have left the position years ago, if she was not concerned about her retirement benefits. Suzanne has been in the system long enough to have seen the relapse among her inmate clients and she has grown bitter toward the corrections administration’s lack of support in providing adequate funding for trauma-focused practice with the women in the facility.  She believes addiction services are underfunded and there needs to be a major clinical shift toward including trauma-based treatment for the inmates.  She has little support for her concerns and has grown increasingly bitter and frustrated by the placating attitude of the corrections administration.  She feels she is wasting her time and providing inadequate and misguided care for her clients.47

Additional Case Studies regarding burnout and vicarious trauma are discussed in the article, “Counselor Self-Care in Work with Traumatized Addicted People,” written by Patricia A. Burke, MSW, Bruce Carruth, Ph.D., and David Prichard, Ph.D. in the Journal of Chemical Dependency Treatment.


Click on the following links for:

Self Care
Information on Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
Compassion Stress and Burnout Signs
Self Care and Life Style Balance
Specific Steps




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