The development of secondary traumatic stress is recognized as a common occupational hazard for professionals working with traumatized children. Studies show that from 6% to 26% of therapists working with traumatized populations, and up to 50% of child welfare workers, are at high risk for secondary traumatic stress or the related conditions of PTSD and vicarious trauma. Any professional who works directly with traumatized children, and is in a position to hear the recounting of traumatic experiences, is at risk for secondary traumatic stress. That being said, risk appears to be greater among women and among individuals who are highly empathetic by nature or have unresolved personal trauma. Risk is also higher for professionals who carry a heavy caseload. of traumatized children; are socially or organizationally isolated; or feel professionally compromised due to inadequate training.
Protecting against the development of secondary traumatic stress includes factors such as longer duration of professional experience and the use of evidence-based practices in the course of providing care.