When humans face painful situations, we survive through making meaning, through transforming the pain into growth. Vicarious transformation (term coined by Dr. Laurie Pearlman) refers to the positive changes in the helper which come about through empathetic engagement with traumatized people and active engagement with the changes in ourselves.

Laurie1Dr. Pearlman stresses that in order to experience this growth, it is necessary that we turn towards the suffering we see. We of course want to deny it, to diminish it, to turn away, We convince ourselves that this could never happen to us. But when we are receptive, it is easier to care, and to enter into a genuine reciprocal relationship with our clients. Just as we feel their pain more acutely, we appreciate their strengths more directly. We experience the human potential in a deeply heartfelt way.

Dr. Pearlman recommends some techniques that can help us maximize the potential for vicarious transformation. These include receiving psychotherapy, journaling, yoga, meditating, praying, symbolizing our experiences creatively, and befriending emotion.

And just as trauma is best healed through connection, vicarious trauma is healed within strong connections both in the workplace and in one’s personal life.

Grief wounds more deeply in solitude; tears are less bitter when mingled with other tears.

Agememnon Seneca

There is a privilege working with people on the edge of life. The view from the edge of life is so much clearer.
Rachel Naomi RemenRachel Naomi Remen, 2006

 

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