Working in the field of complex psychological trauma: a framework for personal and professional growth, training, and supervision

Anne Marie Coleman*, Zoe Chouliara, Kay Currie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
944 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this article is to explore the positive and negative impacts of working therapeutically in complex psychological trauma (CPT), particularly the field of gender-based violence (GBV) and childhood sexual abuse (CSA), from the clinicians' perspective. The focus was on the prospect of positive gains and growth for therapists. Twenty-one clinicians ( n = 21; counselors/psychotherapists and psychologists) from National Health Service (NHS) specialist trauma services, a community mental health team, and specialist sexual assault counseling organization participated. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was utilized to conduct single one-off interviews and analysis. Six themes were identified: Called to the work; Connection, Separation, and Oneness; Into and out of the darkness; Chaos into meaning; Reparation not repetition; and Expansion and growth. The first "Therapist Led Framework of Growth in Trauma Work" is presented. Vicarious posttraumatic growth (VPTG) was a key finding, with CPT therapists experiencing a "challenge/benefit/change" growth process. Adoption of actively relational strategies to enhance clinicians' growth process through trauma work is being proposed. The benefits of conceptualizing both the positive and negative impacts of such work for supervision, training, shaping the formal curricula, service management, and continuing professional development (CPD) are being discussed. The need for good practice guidelines on self-care internationally is highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2791-2815
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number5-6
Early online date20 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • complex psychological trauma
  • gender-based violence
  • vicarious traumatization
  • vicarious posttraumatic growth
  • childhood sexual abuse


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