Trauma, Stress, and Self-Care in Clinical Training: Predictors of Burnout, Decline in Health Status, Secondary Traumatic Stress Symptoms, and Compassion Satisfaction
Objective:Courtois and Gold (2009) have called for the inclusion of trauma in the curriculum for all mental health training programs. The present study investigated the impact of trauma-related content, stress, and self-care (SC) on trainees in such a program. Method: The study examined potential risk factors (trauma exposures in training [being faced with or reacting to trauma-related field work experiences and course content] and perceptions of stress in field and coursework) and protective factors (SC effort and importance) in relation to burnout (BO), health status (HS), secondary traumatic stress symptoms (STSS), and compassion satisfaction (CS) among 195 students in a graduate social work training program. Results: All students reported trauma exposures in their field placements and/or coursework, including retraumatization experiences that were associated with higher STSS and BO. Field stress and SC effort were both consistent predictors across outcomes. Higher field stress levels predicted higher BO and STSS, a greater likelihood of decline in HS, and lower CS. Lower SC effort was also associated with higher BO and STSS, and a greater likelihood of decline in HS, while higher SC effort predicted higher CS. Older students, those with traumatized field clients, and those whose field work addressed trauma, also reported higher CS. Conclusions: These findings suggest that clinical training involving trauma content can be both rewarding and stressful, and may evoke distress in some trainees. Given that learning about and working with trauma are essential to adequate clinical training, the authors suggest adopting a trauma-informed approach within clinical training programs.