Readers' Forum

Dr. Tanja Rode, Political Scientist, supervisor (DGSv):

>> While planning a nationwide conference on “Indirect Traumatization on the Job—Challenges for Professional Practice, Training and Supervision,” I am reading gyour book “Wounded Helpers.”

There was a passage in your introduction that I found so disturbing that I wanted to quickly provide a friendly counterpoint. It is the passage on experienced hostility and accompanying unpleasant expectations regarding the response to your book.

I have worked for 15 years in the area of trauma and have had a lot to do with “secondary traumatization”; I work in supervision, counseling, psychotherapy and continuing education and pass on my experiences and ideas on it—and I think it’s wonderful that you have written this book, which right at the beginning already bravely opens up sensitive questions that worry me as well: for example, that of understanding “inhumanity,” that is so obviously possible for human beings, and which thus poses questions for “all of us.”

I also find interesting your dissociation from concepts such as de-pathologization and de-individualization of (inter)-personal processes, and thus also your critique of the concept of indirect traumatization itself.

For me, this is also a liberating idea, from a systemic perspective. From this point of view, however, I would see no difference between de-pathologization of “indirect traumatization” and other coping strategies, such as those codified in the ICD.

I myself am convinced of the possibility of “healthy transformation” in working with the traumatized, and I experience this as well.

Your discussion at the end shows clearly, in my opinion, to what extent this is not only about phenomenon and experience, but also about out contextualization, interpretation, and assessment of this phenomenon.

I am also aware of the necessary and thoroughly successful alteration of an institution working with traumatized people, and I can directly relate to your discussion. I found extraordinarily fruitful the inclusion of social and structural and organizational conditions as having shared responsibility for stress and indirect traumatization. However, I do not see a contradiction to the phenomenon of “indirect traumatization” in the fact that there is a need for and possibility of action in this area. Nor in my opinion is its emergence more strongly induced by guilt or lack of professionalism in this broadening of perspective – just as I do not see the recognition (or the construction) of indirect traumatization as an accusation [BeSchudigung] against the traumatized clients.

I find that you have brought exciting, enriching, and also certainly provocative work into the discussion.

I am now currently planning a nationwide conference on “Indirect Traumatization on the Job – Challenges for Professional Practice, Training and Supervision.” This is a working title, and even though I your interest in dissolving concepts, this for now makes clear what is meant. In addition, I would find precisely this debate—on the concept and its implications as well as its relationship to work pressure and primary trauma—at the conference itself to be very exciting. <<

A staff member of a victims’ counseling center:

>> I just finished reading “Wounded Helpers” a few days ago, with great personal benefit. While reading, each chapter immediately encouraged me in comparisons, examination of my own experience, and introspection. Because I have repeatedly worked in the same, or similarly structured and operating, organizations and have held the position of aid worker for over a year, I could undertake an initial well-founded evaluation of my situation with the help of your analysis. I recognized my organization in the formal organigram A and in the informal B. It has not yet outgrown the pioneer phase. It has all the obstacles and drawbacks that you describe so impressively. I have been wondering for some time how long I can, should or shall accept this situation. The informal structure is determined by a director who considers himself a founder, though he was not actually a founder, and who is professionally a lay person with some knowledge of human nature, but who presumes to give professional instructions. The board is far away and concerned with other things, etc. etc. There is no room to process the destructive aspects, nor can it be created, because everyone is afraid of it, which is probably true of many similar institutions. You are fully aware of all of this, and therefore I will not go into it more deeply here. Despite all the terrible things, I nevertheless read your book with calm and unbroken interest, as it helped me to recognize and examine my own sense of this confusing and crazy situation and, most important to me at the moment: to achieve some distance from the structure and the actors. I have already recommended the book to other sufferers, for gaining distance is a good method of self-help that can be followed by other steps <<


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