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BPS offers advice on preventing secondary trauma for those taking distressing work home

10 June 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many professionals handling distressing and traumatic material while working from home. Aiming to reduce the likelihood of secondary trauma, we've published new advice to help managers and supervisors support people taking trauma-related work home as part of their jobs.

Exposure to distressing material, including traumatising conversations, images and written or auditory testimony, can occur in the day to day work in many professions. We know that as a result of lockdown measures, many professionals have had to take these difficult materials and subject matters home, which can increase the risk of secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. 

With the support of understanding workplace colleagues being less available and the boundary between work and home life eroded, dealing with trauma-related work can really affect people’s wellbeing.

This guidance offers psychological advice to reduce the risk of trauma using the 5R framework: recognise, review, respond, refresh and review, respect.

Janet Fraser, chair of the BPS Covid-19 working differently task group and chair-elect of the BPS division of occupational psychology, said

“Most people see their home as a place of refuge, comfort and relaxation”, she continued.   “If homes are used to deal with abuse, violence and trauma, this personal space becomes associated with the trauma. Not only that, but consideration must also be given to those also living in the home to ensure they are not exposed. 

“I hope this guidance will give organisations, managers and supervisors the tools they need to continue to support and safeguard their team members through this difficult time.” 

Roles where employees may be exposed to trauma include: accident investigators, coroners, crime analysts, health and social care workers, insurance claims case handlers, offender managers, psychologists, safeguarding officers, social media moderators, social workers, solicitors and teachers.

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