Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma: A validational study


  • This paper is based on a master's thesis submitted by the second author under the supervision of the first author, with additional analyses by the first author. Portions of this paper were presented at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies XV annual meeting, Miami, FL, 1999.


Vicarious trauma (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS) or compassion fatigue both describe effects of working with traumatized persons on therapists. Despite conceptual similarities, their emphases differ: cognitive schemas vs. posttraumatic symptoms and burnout, respectively. The TSI Belief Scale (TSI-BSL) measures VT; the Compassion Fatigue Self-Test (CFST) for Psychotherapists measures STS. Neither has substantial psychometric evidence yet, nor has their association been studied. Results for 99 sexual assault and domestic violence counselors show concurrent validity between TSI-BSL, and CFST, moderate convergence with burnout but useful discrimination, and strong convergence with general distress, but adequate independent shared variance. Counselors with interpersonal trauma histories scored higher on CFST, but not TSI-BSL or burnout, consistent with the CFST's emphasis on trauma symptomatology.