Vicarious trauma, themes in research, and terminology: A review of literature.

Growth in the arena of trauma-informed care has correspondingly created interest in the potential hazards for clinicians who regularly provide trauma-based services. However, what to call the phenomena of clinicians being affected by bearing witness to other’s trauma is a source of perplexity. A review of research indicated numerous terms are being used to describe this phenomenon. The literature review looked specifically at the term vicarious trauma, first developed by McCann and Pearlman (1990), and other closely related terms used in current literature (secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, burnout, countertransference, traumatic countertransference, posttraumatic stress disorder, emotional contagion, and shared trauma). Vicarious trauma is a narrowly defined term, yet similar terms have been developed with overlapping characteristics and symptoms. Commonalities encountered in the review of literature were the lack of operationalized terms, vocabulary mismanagement, and the use of incorrect terminology when designing and conducting research, creating potential vulnerabilities to reliability and validity of findings. The implications are important to various issues, specifically an increase in the collective knowledge base and trustworthy information concerning vicarious trauma and similar terms, avenues to decrease research inconsistencies, better prevention measures, enhancement of clinical practice behaviors, and precautions for future research endeavors. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)