Trauma-Informed Nonprofit Leadership
How Nonprofit Leaders Effectively
Manage Trauma-Affected Organizations
While there is a thriving literature on “secondary trauma” in clinical psychology, social work, and stress management, little is still known about how secondary trauma emerges in nonprofit organizations. Referred to in parallel as “vicarious trauma” or “compassion fatigue,” secondary trauma refers to an emotional state in which an individual (e.g., a staff person or volunteer) experiences the pain, sadness, distress, or other negative emotion of a second individual (e.g., an organizational client): for instance, a counselor listens to the experiences and reactions of a client to traumatic situations, which indirectly produce distress and traumatization in the counselor.
Think second-hand smoke: the client transmits, through emotional contagion, their trauma to the nonprofit staff member. The staff member, in turn, experiences some of the same effects of trauma as the client: stress, burnout, difficulty trusting others and disillusionment with society. In the case of the staff person, this erosion of trust and disillusionment can extend to the organization if secondary trauma is not carefully managed.
Secondary trauma can emerge acutely when the staff member expresses care, concern, and empathy over a protracted period toward a client who recounts their experience of trauma such as violence, rape, poverty, abuse, illness, or loss. Given their organizational roles at the front lines of human tragedy, such transmission of secondary trauma occurs frequently in nonprofits.
Based on Dr. Anthony Silard’s research with over 150 secondary-trauma-affected nonprofit EDs, staff and volunteers, in this session you will learn how secondary trauma emerges in nonprofit organizations. You will then learn how you, as a nonprofit leader, can guide a high-performance organization into the future by interacting with secondary-trauma-affected team members so they can both makes sense of and find meaning in their trauma and retain their productivity.
Session Learning Objectives
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a leadership conference for your organization.