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					 The Vicarious Traumatization of
          Researchers:
A Neglected Area of RCR Research

           Mark S. Davis
      The Ohio State University
           Kelly L. Wester
    University of North Carolina at
              Greensboro
                 Presentation to the
    2009 Research Conference on Research Integrity
                  Niagara Falls, NY
                    May 17, 2009
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Definitions

       “Vicarious traumatization refers to any
        maladaptive behavioral, emotional, or
        cognitive change in a person interacting with
        an individual as a result of the emotional
        intensity of work.” (Newman, 2008)

       “…transformation in the inner experience of
        the therapist that comes about as a result of
        empathic engagement with client’s trauma
        material.” (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995)

       “…refers to negative changes in therapists’
        frame of reference…” (Collins & Long, 2003)
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~In Contrast to Secondary Traumatic Stress




       “Secondary traumatic stress is the presence
        of post-traumatic stress symptoms in
        caregivers…” (Collins & Long, 2003)
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~In Contrast to Burnout




      Burnout is ”…a defensive response to
       prolonged occupational exposure to
       demanding interpersonal situations that
       produce psychological strain and provide
       inadequate support.” (Jenkins & Baird, 2002)
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Importance



       Its effect “…is to change the worker’s self in
        the same ways that a traumatic event or
        context affects in individual’s sense of self.”
        (Dane, 2000)
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Direct Service Examples



        Working with survivors of domestic violence
        Working with victims of child abuse
        Working with cancer or AIDS patients
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Research Examples




       Research   in war-torn countries
       Research   into domestic violence
       Research   with survivors of homicide victims
       Research   into children who witness violence
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Anecdotal Evidence


An investigator who researched breast cancer
  wrote:

  “Twenty-one women died during the study. I was
  affected by some deaths more than others,
  usually depending upon the extent of my
  involvement with the woman and her death.
  Reading my field notes, I can see that I have
  expressed sadness, depression, shock, anger,
  and feelings of great loss.”
                        Cannon, 1989
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Anecdotal Evidence – cont’d.


Rowling (1999) had conducted research on loss and grief:

  “Nothing that I read in planning this study prepared me for
  the emotionality of the research process. I read
  recommendations about how I should address
  confidentiality, harm, deception and privacy, but there was
  not much written on such things as the impact on the
  research of listening to people talk about their grief, their
  fears and anxieties, sometimes being expressed for the first
  time and in times of crisis. Participants told me of events in
  their lives that had great emotional impact on them: at the
  time they occurred, and in their retelling. These accounts
  had an emotional impact on me as I heard them.”
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Traumatic Research Material – Suicide Notes

    To my dear children,

       Please forgive me for it seems I have spent a live time
       hurting those I love. I have reached a point where I feel I
       cant go on any longer. Although it may not have seemed to
       you all over the years I loved you very much. I now find my
       life is so empty and useless I have taken the cowards way
       out. I hope you will find in your hearts to forgive me as I
       hope God will.

       Your loving father
Vicarious Traumatization
       ~Traumatic Research Material – Suicide Notes, cont’d.
    To whom it may concern.

       Please return this gun to my brother-in-law ---------- of 11 -
       ------- Street, -----. He has lend me this gun in good faith
       as I said that I would go shooting.... There is not foul play
       attached, as I haven't got much choice left. My wife and
       children are lost to me, and therefore haven't much reason
       to keep on going. There is nothing medical that can be
       done, and things are very painful. Even with sleeping tablets
       at night I cannot sleep because, I've got to take many
       tablets per day. If you would like to check things out, please
       get in touch with Mr. --- as you will know is a surgeon at the
       R.H.H. Please forgive me if I caused you any inconvenience.
       Good bye and God bless if that is possible.
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~How It’s Addressed by RCR

    RCR Foundational Documents
     Declaration of Helsinki
     The Belmont Report
           It might be argued that “respect for
            persons,” interpreted broadly, includes
            researchers.
       The Common Rule

    Conclusion: It’s not been addressed at
     these levels.
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Possible Consequences

        Researchers’ undiagnosed, untreated
         mental and emotional problems
         resulting from exposure to subjects’
         traumatization

        Insufficient attention to protecting
         human research subjects

        Data of questionable quality
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Some Questions Related to RCR


       Should we extend the protection of human
        subjects to include “researchers,” that is,
        those who are vulnerable to various types of
        harm during the course of research?
           Aside from our concern about our colleagues,
            should we be concerned about VT and related
            issues from an RCR standpoint?
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Some Questions Related to RCR



       To what extent does the vicarious
        traumatization of researchers affect a
        researcher’s ability to protect human
        research subjects from harm?
           If researchers cannot maintain “empathic distance”
            in conducting research on trauma, can they be
            counted on to look after their subjects’ interests?
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Some Questions Related to RCR



       To what extent does the vicarious
        traumatization of researchers affect the data
        that researchers so traumatized collect,
        analyze and interpret?
           Is it possible that those suffering from VT lose their
            scientific objectivity?
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Some Research Questions to Explore


       Do texts on research methods and RCR and other
        training materials address the possible vicarious
        traumatization of researchers?

       Do research institutions have formal policies on how
        to protect researchers from various forms of harm?

       Do IRBs formally or informally address the potential
        harm to researchers in their review of protocols?
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Some Research Questions to Explore – cont’d.


       Do researchers experience symptoms of vicarious
        traumatization?
       What are these symptoms, and what are their
        characteristics (e.g., severity, time of exposure until
        onset)?
       Do researchers interact with human research subjects
        in different ways due to reactions they have had to
        past traumatized participants or traumatic data?
       What do researchers find helpful in minimizing or
        preventing the effects of vicarious traumatization
        (e.g., consulting with a colleague, distancing
        themselves emotionally and personally from human
        subjects and the information they provide, engaging
        in quantitative versus qualitative data, receiving
        training)?
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Conclusions

       There are several levels at which
        etiological issues can be studied and
        addressed.
           Individual
           Situational
           Organizational
           Institutional
           Structural
       Isn’t it reasonable to focus on those
        levels that lends themselves to
        meaningful change?
Vicarious Traumatization
        ~Conclusions


     The vicarious traumatization of
      researchers is a neglected area of RCR
      research and policy.
     Research should be conducted to
      explore the contours of VT in the
      research community.
     Steps should be taken to protect
      researchers and human subjects from
      the consequences of VT.
Vicarious Traumatization




                     Thank You!

				
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