How Vicarious Trauma Touches Every Family Member

There’s a common misconception that when one member goes through a traumatic event, they’re the only ones affected. Families, in general, are cohesive units that connect the lives of everyone involved. This is especially true of those family members that still share a residence. Every day the interactions between them shape their existence, and when one of them experiences a traumatic event, it affects all of them. This shared trauma is known as vicarious trauma and can have devastating effects if not addressed. Thankfully, with counseling and the proper attitude, these events can serve to draw the family together even more firmly.

How Vicarious Trauma Touches Every Member of the Family

Trauma, in general, is an experience that can be complex and difficult to navigate. When trauma occurs in a family, it can be an even trickier web to untangle. These traumatic experiences can touch every member of the family without it being immediately apparent. This is true even with family members not involved in the precipitating event. Ensuring that this shared trauma doesn’t cause lasting damage requires hard work, compassion, and observation. Without taking steps to mitigate it, it can affect families in the following ways:

  • Adults, Adolescents, And Children – Every member of the family can potentially demonstrate post-traumatic stress symptoms. Some individuals respond to trauma by becoming further engaged with life, while others have difficulty overcoming it.
  • Extended Family – Many families and individuals find support in the members of their extended family. These individuals may be less affected by the trauma and thus be able to provide better support. Even if involved, their support can be essential.
  • Parental Relationships – Relationships can suffer, and parental relationships are no exception. Depending on the kind of trauma, relationships between parent and child can become especially strained. This is especially true if the trauma resulted in either of them becoming less emotionally available while support is needed. Children, in particular, can feel abandoned in these cases.
  • Intimate Adult Relations – Both physical and emotional relationships may be impacted by experiencing a traumatic event. The strain this places on the relationship, conflict occurring on top of the trauma, and interpersonal violence can all be factors.
  • Sibling Relationships – Like any other relationship in a family, sibling relationships can be a vital source of support. However, shared trauma can impact these connections and create a distance that can last for years.

Seek Help From A Qualified Therapist

The first step to getting effective help for these situations is finding a qualified therapist. Therapists often specialize in different forms of trauma and mental health concerns. Those who specialize in family trauma are better able to help families working through difficult situations. Finding a specialist who will accommodate the various aspects of your family, including cultural and religious, can be essential. With the help of this therapist, you’ll be able to work through the various struggles that the trauma presented and start mending the wounds in your family. Don’t let a trauma within your family drive a wedge between you and your loved ones. Seek help from a qualified therapist today!

Dr. Aryeh Berlin is a New Jersey licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Aspire Psychological Group. Dr. Berlin has vast clinical training experiences including a residential adolescent addiction treatment center in Israel, community mental health centers, and youth detention centers. Dr. Berlin has lectured on parenting children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, child development, helping children with school-related challenges and trauma. Audiences included attorneys, mental health professionals, parents, and educators.

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