Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

First Advisor

Maryann Syers, M.S.W., Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laura Boisen, M.P.A, M.S.W., Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Bohun, M.S.W.


As it becomes more common in the United States for survivors to seek professional assistance in healing, therapists are experiencing an increase in the number of their clients identifying as sexual trauma survivors. These clients often suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are likely to reenact the traumatic events that necessitated therapy, thus exposing their therapists to vicarious trauma. In 60- to 90-minute interviews, this study explored the experiences of female therapists with personal sexual trauma histories in their work with survivors of sexual trauma. The findings demonstrate that a therapist's location in her own healing process and professional development, and her ability to take care of herself emotionally, determine whether her history is a tool or a hindrance in her work with survivor clients, her vulnerability to vicarious trauma, and the effect of the work on her worldview. The research also demonstrates the interdependence of therapist and client process. This study adds to the emerging literature on vicarious trauma and highlights the need for attention to therapist vicarious trauma in the field of sexual abuse treatment.


SC 11.MSW.2001.McVay.JL

Included in

Social Work Commons