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Vicarious Trauma Toolkit

Since 2014, with funding from the federal Office for Victims of Crime, the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice at Northeastern University has led the effort to create an online resource for law enforcement, emergency medical, fire and victim services organizations to address vicarious trauma. The toolkit was developed in partnership with ISTSS and other national and international organizations including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State EMS Officials, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the National Children’s Advocacy Center. Boston Area partners included the Center for Violence Prevention & Recovery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. 

The project team compiled and vetted literature and materials on vicarious trauma. The toolkit was piloted in seven communities across the United States, heterogeneous in terms of location, demographics and size. Representatives from ISTSS and all other partner organizations participated in two National Summits to synthesize resources and feedback and guide final toolkit development.

The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) is now freely available to the public for use. The VTT provides a repository of evidence-informed tools to address the impact of vicarious trauma on staff and volunteers. The VTT is designed for organizations that are seeking to become vicarious trauma-informed by proactively raising awareness and addressing the impact of critical incidents and ongoing exposure to traumatic events on the job. It is also designed for independent clinicians looking for ways to enhance their work with first responder and victim services organizations, by improving employee learning and performance, team development, career management and overall organizational resilience.

Moving beyond the sole focus on individual staff “self-care,” the VTT attends to the duty and responsibility of professional organizations to sustain their staff through vicarious trauma-informed policies, practices and programs. VTT materials include agency guidelines, presentations with detailed instructor notes, videos, and a newly created organizational assessment tool to determine an agency’s strengths and gaps in staff support.

Specific resources include:

  • Vicarious Trauma Organizational Readiness Guide (VT-ORG) is an assessment tool your organization can use that measures five evidence-informed areas of organizational health. Assessment results can then be used to identify gaps and prioritize next steps to address them.
  • Compendium of Resources contains nearly 500 tools that organizations can use to become more informed about vicarious trauma, including policies, research literature, training materials and links to websites, podcasts, and videos. The Compendium can be searched by organizational strategy, topic, and discipline, so organizations can find appropriate tools for their agency to use to address identified gaps.
  • Resources created for this toolkit include: VT 101, an introductory PowerPoint presentation for each discipline (with notes for presenters); and guidelines for VT-informed supervision, family support, employee and volunteer assistance, among others. 

Explore the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit to help guide your organization toward becoming vicarious trauma-informed. For more information, contact Lisa Tieszen, MA, LICSW, or Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD.

ISTSS extends its sincere thanks to members Gilbert Reyes, PhD and Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD for their participation and contributions to this important project.