Abstract: A Review of the Concept Development of Vicarious Resilience and Implications for Social Work Research (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

209P A Review of the Concept Development of Vicarious Resilience and Implications for Social Work Research

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Ran Hu, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Catherine Schmidt, Graduate Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose: Literature on the effects of trauma work on therapists has predominantly focused on negative consequences, such as secondary traumatic stress. Recently, academic attention has increasingly been given to positive outcomes and growth in therapists working with traumatized clients (e.g., Gifus, 1999). Vicarious resilience, a new concept describing the positive effect of trauma work on therapists, was introduced by Hernández, Gangsei, and Engstrom (2007) in their qualitative study with psychotherapists working with trauma survivors of political violence. Guided by a scoping review framework, this presentation summarizes the current state of the development and application of the concept of vicarious resilience in literature.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in six main social work and psychology databases: Social Work Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts (ASSIA), PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, and Medline. Since the concept of vicarious resilience was proposed in 2007, we sought to locate peer-reviewed articles published after December 31, 2006. We applied the following criteria: (1) the article makes reference to the term “vicarious resilience” at least once; (2) the article is written in English; and (3) the article is published in a peer-reviewed journal. A Social Work librarian provided guidance to the search strategy and keywords. The first and second authors screened all articles independently and compared screening results.

Results: Twenty-two articles were included in the review; 55% were published after 2015. The articles indicate that there has been a strong collaboration of researchers and professionals in the field of counseling psychology and social work across different countries (e.g., Australia, Colombia and the United States) to study and define the concept. The majority of the research participants were mental health professionals working with traumatized clients, which aligns with the target professional population in which vicarious resilience was originally intended to be observed. While vicarious resilience has been studied mainly through qualitative research approaches such as phenomenology or grounded theory, some scholars have also explored ways of measuring vicarious resilience, including the development of a Vicarious Resilience Scale. The main challenge in the development of the concept lies in the ambiguity of how vicarious resilience is positioned in relation to other similar concepts, such as vicarious posttraumatic growth and compassion satisfaction. Within the articles included in the review, there are some inconsistencies in elaborating the differences among these terms.

Implications: The findings suggest that future research should focus on (1) refining the Vicarious Resilience Scale, exploring factors and therapeutic models that promote vicarious resilience, and how vicarious resilience may contribute to improved therapeutic process and outcomes for traumatized clients; (2) exploring vicarious resilience among mental health professionals working with other groups of clients besides survivors of political violence, such as survivors of natural disasters; (3) providing more clarity on the definition and justification of the uniqueness and necessity of the concept; and (4) exploring practical models to incorporate vicarious resilience in clinical social work training and supervision.