Secondary traumatic stress among alcohol and other drug workers in Australia
Background: The high prevalence of trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among clients of alcohol and other drug (AOD) services is well documented. Less is known, however, about the impact this has on workers who assess and treat such clients.The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence and correlates of secondary traumatic stress (STS) among AOD workers in Australia. The authors used an anonymous web-based survey which was completed by 412 Australian AOD workers. The questionnaire assessed current levels of trauma training, extent of exposure to clients with a history of trauma history, AOD workers’ own history of trauma exposure and PTSD, and current STS.
Findings: Despite the high volume of traumatised clients accessing AOD services, less than two-thirds of AOD workers reported having ever received trauma training. Nearly one in five AOD workers had experienced secondary traumatic stress (STS). STS was independently predicted by a higher traumatised client workload, fewer hours of clinical supervision, and stress and anxiety levels of the worker.
Implications: The findings highlight the importance of providing adequate trauma training and clinical supervision to AOD workers in order to maintain their health and welfare and ensure optimal treatment to clients with PTSD.