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Listening to the stories of traumatized people and feelin


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Title: Listening to the stories of traumatized people and feelin

Dr. Samuel Pfeifer
  • Secondary Trauma
  • When Helping Hurts

Receiving yourself in the fires of sorrow
  • You can always recognize who has been through
    the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you
    know that you can go to him in your moment of
    trouble and find that he has plenty of time for
    you. But if a person has not been through the
    fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous,
    having no respect or time for you, only turning
    you away. If you will receive yourself in the
    fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment
    for other people.

Oswald Chambers, (My Utmost for His Highest 25.
June) - http//
Moved with compassion
  • But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved
    with compassion 4697 on them, because they
    fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep
    having no shepherd. (Mat.9,36)
  • G4697
  • sp?a??????µa?
  • splagchnizomai
  • splangkh-nid'-zom-ahee
  • Middle voice from G4698 to have the bowels
    yearn, that is, (figuratively) feel sympathy, to
    pity - have (be moved with) compassion.

Trauma is contagious
  • Trauma is contagious. The therapist, in his role
    as a witness is often overwhelmed by his
    emotions. He goes somewhat less than the
    patient through his feelings of dread, anger
    and despair.

Judith Hermann, Trauma Therapist
Contagion effect
  • Figley (1995) identified the mirroring or
    contagion effect of symptoms from client to
    therapist and argued that "those who have
    enormous capacity for feeling and expressing
    empathy tend to be more at risk of compassion

Primary Trauma Aftereffects
  • Physical and psychological Hyperarousal (e.g.
    difficulty staying/falling asleep,
    hypervigilance, irritability),
  • Intrusion (painful memories, flashbacks,
    memoriesimages, feelings, anxieties, day dreams,
    nightmares etc.)
  • Avoidance (detachment from others, avoiding
    activities or positive experiences, diminished
    ability to enjoy life). How can I enjoy life,
    when others are hurting?

Secondary Trauma
  • Listening to the stories of traumatized people
    and feeling with hte victims of traumatic
    experiences leads to similar reactions as if the
    trauma had happened to you.

Possible effects
  • The reports elicits memories of your own.
  • The report triggers mental images (in day dreams
    or nightmares)
  • You realize your own vulnerability
  • Your own confidence in life and security is
  • Feelings of anger and despair. Accusations
    against police, the government, other
    responsible authorities.
  • Reproaches against God? How can he allow this
  • "Traumatic events shake the foundations of our
    beliefs, and may shatter our trust..."

Possible effects
  • You feel overwhelmed and helpless in addressing
    the other persons distress.
  • Some develop explanations or apply methods
    (psychological or spiritual) which are
    irrational, perhaps even magical (accusing
    Christian parents of Satanism, spiritual forces
  • Some try to overcome their helplessness with
    inadequate hyperactivity (often with a lack of
    respect for a patients borders and his or her
    well-being) e.g. reporting sexual abuse to the
    police or even taking revenge in self-justice.

Possible effects
  • Distrust and reproach to other helpers
  • they dont understand the needs of my client.
  • they are hushing up the problems.
  • they dont take actions!
  • General devaluation of other helping persons
  • Avoiding trauma patients or avoiding to confront
    the diagnosis, in order not to be traumatized.
  • Refusing supervision, holding back their own
    reactions, because of shame.

Dangers for Therapy / Counselling
  • Avoidance behavior of the counsellor he / she
    doesnt want to address the trauma although the
    patient / clients would like to talk about it.
  • Therapeutic Intrusion The counsellor insists
    on details of the traumatic event, although the
    person does not want to reveal or repeat such
  • General avoidance or withdrawal As the
    counsellor is suffering from sleep disorders,
    nightmares or physical hyperarousal, he or she is
    not available for the patient at all.

False ambitions
  • False ambition, to heal all, to know everything,
    to love all.
  • Healing everything Therapy until final and
    complete recovery.
  • Knowing everything Exact and detailed
    reconstruction (despite negative emotional
    consequences), hope for catharsis through
    knowledge and revelation.
  • Loving everything Trying to give the victim
    vicarious love (making up for all the love she
    missed in life). Danger of transgressing borders
    in therapy and counselling.

Coping strategies
  • Security
  • Recollection and mourning
  • Social Integration
  • Providing Boundaries
  • Supervision, Intervision
  • Normal Relationships

Prophetic word in Burnout
  • A pastor, who went though a severe burnout,
    received the following prophtic words through a
  • You will be restored. You will be healed. And my
    anointment will flow again through your life and
    through your ministry. My minstry through your
    life. You will witness that in communion with me
    this anointment will flow again. And you will be
    amazed how the Lord will use you and there will
    be no pressure on you.

The values of debriefing
  • When the disciples returned from their first
    missionary endeavors, Jesus gave them time to
    tell their stories and to share their questions.
    Broadly speaking this is what debriefing is
  • The following thoughts have been inspired by a
    paper which was written by Dr. Debbie

  • Operational debriefing Asking for information
    about the work performed, and what was achieved.
  • Personal debriefing Asking how the experience
    was for the individual (what was best/ worst? How
    is the readjustment process going?). Aims to help
    them integrate their experience into their life
    as a whole, perceive the experience more
    meaningfully, and bring a sense of closure.
  • Critical incident debriefing (CID) A highly
    structured form of personal debriefing, which can
    take place after a traumatic experience (such as
    a natural disaster, a violent incident, or a
    traffic accident).

A Biblical Framework of Debriefing
  • a) We are called to care for each other (e.g.
    Isaiah 61 1-2 John 13 35 John 21 16 2 Cor
    1 3-4 Gal. 62).
  • Debriefing is a way of showing we care. We do not
    tend to question whether there is a Biblical
    framework for practising medicine - we know that
    it relieves suffering, so we encourage it.
    Providing emotional help also brings people to
    greater health and healing. Research indicates
    that some people who do not receive a debriefing
    feel devalued. Those who receive a debriefing
    tend to find it a positive experience and have
    fewer trauma-related symptoms.

  • Listening is central to debriefing, and the Bible
    teaches us to listen (Proverbs 1813 James
  • In modern society, it can be difficult to find
    someone willing to make time to really listen. In
    particular, eyes glaze over when someone starts
    to talk about their experience overseas. Mission
    partners often feel isolated. Listening breaks
    down this isolation, and helps them move forward.

Teaching about emotions
  • Emotions are normal and valid. The Bible also
    teaches this. The Bible contains plenty of anger,
    fear, and tears (e.g. in the Psalms). Dont be
    afraid may imply theres no need for you to be
    afraid rather than its wrong to fear. Jesus
    did not condemn a man who admitted unbelief, but
    rather allowed him to express this (Mark 9 24).
  • The Bible reminds us that there is a time to
    weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a
    time to dance ... a time to be silent and a time
    to speak, a time to love and a time to hate (Ecc
  • Jesus taught by example that it was OK to cry
    (Luke 19 41 John 1135 Heb. 5 7). He
    expressed anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane,
    and said that his soul was overwhelmed with
    sorrow (Matt. 2638).
  • In past times and different cultures, people have
    known that it is normal to feel certain emotions
    after trauma, and they did not need to be taught
    this. Today, some people need to be told this

Biblical examples Telling ones story
  • The Disciples walking along the Emmaus road had
    gone through the trauma of witnessing the
    crucifixion of Jesus. They were talking about
    what had happened (Luke 2413-24). Jesus joined
    them, and asked what had happened. That wasnt
    for His benefit he knew. It gave them the
    opportunity to tell their story the facts of
    what had happened, and their feelings of
    disappointment. He then helped them put things
    into context.

Biblical Examples II
  • A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years
    (possibly following trauma) touched Jesus (Luke
    8 43-48). He asked, who touched me. Why did He
    ask? Not to embarrass her, but to allow her to
    tell her story, so that she would gain emotional
    healing as well as physical healing. (Otherwise
    no-one else would have known that she had been
    healed, and she would still have been thought of
    as an outcast).
  • Joseph In Genesis 44 - 45, we see Joseph
    listening to his brothers story, then telling
    them about his experiences, to produce a clearer
    picture and make the events more meaningful.
    Joseph recognised their feelings of distres s and
    anger. They all expressed their feelings freely,
    weeping together and embracing one another,
    before making plans for the future.

Listening to stories
  • Nehemiah heard a traumatic report about his
    people being exiled, and living in great trouble
    and disgrace in a ruined city (Neh. 13).
    Nehemiah didnt disguise his feelings. The king
    noticed that he looked sad. Nehemiah normalised
    this - why should my face not look sad when the
    city ... lies in ruins? (23). The king listened
    as Nehemiah spoke about his plans, and he helped
    Nehemiah do what was necessary to move forward
    from this point of despair.
  • Jesus invited people to tell him their stories
    (e.g. the sick the disciples when they returned
    after being sent out two by two). He listened to
    them, and helped to bring closure to experiences,
    and helped people move on.

Reviewing the past moving on
  • The Bible affirms that there is a place both for
    reviewing the past together (Isaiah 4326), and
    for moving on to new things (Isaiah 4319). Both
    occur during debriefing.
  • A good example is Gods counselling of Elijah,
    when he suffered a burnout and had to flee for
    his life into the wilderness. (1. Kings 19)
  • Elijah experienced a death threat (1 Kings 192),
    and fled for his life. He was afraid, and prayed
    that he might die. An angel provided physical
    care for him (food, drink and sleep). Forty days
    later, after his physical needs had been met, God
    asked what was going on. Elijah told God his
    story- twice (v. 10, v. 14). Then God moved
    Elijah to think about the future, and told him
    that he would not be alone - there was support
    available in the form of 7000 other believers
    (v.18). Moreover, God directed Elijah to Elisha
    (v.16ff), who would give him more support.
  • Physical regeneration (sleep and food)
  • Spiritual review
  • A new (and unusual experience of God
  • A new direction and a new task

  • B. Hudnall Stamm (ed.) Secondary Traumatic
    Stress Self-Care Issues for Clinicians,
    Researchers, and Educators. Sidran Press.
  • Judith Herman Trauma and Recovery The Aftermath
    of Violence. Basic Books.
  • Fawcett, G. (1999). Ad-Mission The briefing and
    debriefing of teams of missionaries and aid
    workers. Harpenden Self-published. Available
    directly from the author - e-mail or phone 01582 463252.
  • Gamble, K., Lovell, D.M., Lankester, T.
    Keystone, J. (2001). Aid workers, expatriates and
    travel. In J. Zukerman A. J. Zukerman (Eds),
    Principals and Practice of Travel Medicine.
    Chichester, England John Wiley Sons.
  • Jordan, P. (1992). Re-entry Making the
    transition from missions to life at home.
    Seattle YWAM.
  • Lovell-Hawker, D.M. (2002). Debriefing after
    traumatic incidents, and at the end of
    assignments. In K. ODonnell (Ed.) Doing Member
    Care Well Perspectives and Practices from around
    the world. Pasadena, CA William Carey.
  • Mitchell, J. Gray, B. (1990). Emergency
    Services Stress. New Jersey Brady. Parkinson, F.
    (1997). Critical Incident Debriefing. London, UK
    Souvenir Press.
  • Pollock, D.C. Van Reken, R. E. (1999). The
    Third Culture Kid Experience. Maine USA
    Intercultural Press.
  • Rose, S. Bisson, J. (1998). Brief early
    psychological interventions following trauma A
    systematic review of the literature. Journal of
    Traumatic Stress, 11, 4, 697-710.

Helpful Links
  • http//
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Group activity
Group Activity / Questions
  • Share your own experience of secondary trauma
  • What are stories that touch your heart.
  • How do you prevent the pain of others to invade
    your emotions?
  • Discuss the balance of compassion and