As part of the BBA’s ongoing focus on lawyer well-being, the
Delivery of Legal Services Section recently held a workshop entitled
“Addressing Vicarious Trauma: Practical Skills and Planning.” This was the second
in a two-part series on vicarious trauma featuring professionals from Resilience Works.
This second installment was presented by Lisa Tieszen, a
social worker by training, who has been working on the issue of vicarious
trauma for the past two decades. After reviewing the definitions of trauma and
vicarious Trauma, Tieszen offered strategies for attendees to deploy to address
the stress of their jobs in the moment. Focusing on one’s breathing, for
instance, was identified as a helpful strategy. Tieszen explained that
breathing is “one of the areas we can control when we are most anxious or
distressed.” She demonstrated one technique with the attendees in the room,
encouraging all to take time out of the day when necessary to do such
Tieszen also addressed things at an organizational level, stressing
the importance of having a workplace that is vicarious trauma-informed. She noted
that it is incumbent on organizations to recognize the toll of the work, and to
proactively ensure that their employees are prepared to handle the impacts of
the job. Tieszen further identified several characteristics of a
trauma-informed practice and urged the importance of peer support in ensuring
the health and safety of each team member.
Stay tuned for more well-being programming here at the BBA!
This programming is made possible in part by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Joan B. DiCola Fund. This fund provides critical support for Boston Bar Association programs and initiatives that foster the education and professional development of lawyers. For more information on the BBF or this fund, please click here.
As part of the BBA’s ongoing focus on lawyer wellbeing, earlier this
month the Delivery of Legal Services Section held an introductory workshop for
pro bono and legal services lawyers on understanding vicarious trauma.
The program, led by Katherine Manners of Resilience Works, provided an
overview of vicarious trauma, which represents an occupational challenge for
those working with trauma survivors.
Citing a 2011 study, Manners said that 34% of attorneys working with
traumatized clients meet the criteria for PTSD, and 75% meet the criteria for functional
impairment, such as disruption in one’s personal and family life. She noted that, if left unaddressed,
vicarious trauma can have significant physical, behavioral, emotional,
spiritual, cognitive, and relational effects, and can negatively impact
professional performance. An interactive
activity helped attendees reflect on how some of these effects may have
manifested in their own lives.
Manners stated that vicarious traumatization is inevitable in
workplaces where employees are exposed to the effects of trauma, but that the
negative impacts can be managed, and that both individual practitioners and
entire organizations can adopt practices to increase vicarious resilience,
vicarious transformation, and “compassion satisfaction.” She discussed factors that improve resilience,
and suggested some practical coping tools.
A second program on this topic, “Addressing Vicarious Trauma: Practical
Skills and Planning,” will be held on Thursday, December 12, from 4:00-6:00pm.
The program will focus on helping attendees integrate trauma-informed
principles into their practice, establish professional boundaries, and consider
ways to strengthen team and organizational responses to vicarious trauma. For
more information and to register, click
This programming is made possible in part by the Boston Bar
Foundation’s Joan B. DiCola Fund. This fund provides critical support for
Boston Bar Association programs and initiatives that foster the education and
professional development of lawyers. For more information on the BBF or this
fund, please click here.