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Responding to secondary traumatic stress: A pilot study of torture treatment programs in the United States

Authors

  • Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, the City College of New York, City University of New York; New York University School of Medicine; and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, New York, New York, USA
    • Department of Psychology, the City College of New York, New York, NY 10031.
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  • Eva Keatley,

    1. New York University School of Medicine and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, New York, New York, USA
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  • Andrew Rasmussen

    1. New York University School of Medicine and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, New York, New York, USA
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  • This research was supported by a Professional Staff Congress–City University of New York (PSC-CUNY) Grant and the Faculty Fellowship Publication Program, City University of New York (FFPP-CUNY) awarded to Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith.

Abstract

Providers who care for torture survivors may be at risk for secondary traumatic stress, yet there has been little documentation of the effects of repeated exposure to traumatic issues on their emotional health or exploration of the support systems and resources available to address their emotional needs. This study assessed the secondary stress experiences of service providers (N = 43) within the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs in the United States and examined the supports offered by their organizations. The study found a significant correlation between rates of anxiety and depression among providers, r(34) = .49, p = .003. Although these participants reported that their work with survivors of torture was stressful, 91% indicated that their organizations offered a variety of stress-reduction activities. Overall, participants reported that their own personal activities were the most-effective stress reducers. The results are discussed in light of challenges that professionals who work with this population face and the effectiveness of support systems available to support their work.

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