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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 43 (2001) 1, 7 - 19

New research

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: An occupational risk for therapists?

A.J.M. Smith, W.Chr. Kleijn, J.A. Stevens

background Literature on posttraumatic stress disorder (ptsd) warns of the detrimental effects on the therapist, such as countertransference, secondary traumatization, vicarious traumatization. Empirical data are scarce, however.
aims Research questions were: how burdening are trauma therapies for the therapists and, does the emotional burden relate to the characteristics of the patients' ptsd. Apart from that the contribution of organizational factors was analysed.
methods A questionnaire was distributed among 129 employees of a trauma institute.
results A high level of experienced emotional burden was related to the treatment of traumatized patients. Emotional burden was related to therapist-anxiety and acuteness and severity of the ptsd-symptoms. Role clarity (tasks and responsibility) was a stress-reducing factor. Other factors seemed to play a part in burnout: here the relationship of the therapist with the organization as a whole emerged as an important factor.
conclusion Preventive measures should be aimed at a reduction of anxiety in difficult situations, an increase of team support and more clarity of tasks and responsibility.

keywords burnout, posttraumatic stress disorder, workstress