Working with Oppressive and Vicarious Trauma While Caring for Ourselves

This presentation provides an introduction into how repeated discriminatory experiences can produce a traumatic response. Participants will learn how oppression can impact people’s stress responses and how to work effectively with people who have experienced oppressive trauma. Additionally, this presentation also addresses the personal and community impacts of working within social justice, and how to care for oneself and one’s community. The past few years have been hard on many of us. The COVID-19 pandemic, racism, death, job loss, food insecurity, relationship struggles, loneliness, deprivation of needs, and the list goes on. The impact of these events can vary based on one's own experience, privileges, and identities, and yet we all are experiencing a collective trauma. While we may be in helping positions as advocates, therapists, first responders, prosecutors, or serving in any other supportive role, we are impacted too. We can be in a position of helping others as we also navigate through our own traumas. So, how are we helping ourselves, and what does this have to do with social justice? As Audre Lorde wrote in her 1988 essay collection A Burst of Light, “Caring for my self is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is a way to assert in an oppressive culture that you (and those you serve) matter. This presentation will incorporate the Professional Quality of Life scale as a way to assess one's own vicarious trauma and burnout, as well as offer a number of resources for becoming aware of one's own warning signs and areas of vulnerability, and a way to re-frame and re-think self-care.

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