Methods: This 36-month qualitative study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to closely examine Childhelp Hotline Counselor professional and VR experiences. Data from six focus groups were collected over three years. One focus group in 2019, two in 2020, and three focus groups in 2021. All 26 participants were National Child Abuse Hotline counselors and supervisors. NVIVO was used for the analysis.
Results: Analysis of the focus group transcriptions included a single case analysis that looked at each year and a cross-case analysis to look at themes generated by analyzing all years together. Themes of resilience, workspace, and healing found that the hotline counselors shared positive experiences and personal growth from their work with help-seekers, with implications of advocating for self-care not as an individual issue but a social justice issue. Presenting their stories can advance the concept of VR, trauma-informed practices healing justice, and, most importantly, how VR can contribute to sustaining and empowering helping professionals in challenging times.
Conclusions/Implications: In this time of crisis and extreme stressors, hotline services are being used more than ever making it vital to identify the positive experiences of helping others with trauma. VR serves as a protective factor in many ways that allow the counselors to stay calm in the face of others’ suffering and enjoy their job and find it meaningful. Providing awareness on VR and how it can be used as a protective measure will be essential for future challenges. These study results may be used in training that can kindle positive social and cultural change that will improve and sustain the well-being of helping professionals.