Trauma and the therapist: Visual image making, countertransference, and vicarious traumatization

Deborah Rozelle (1997)

This dissertation describes a training program for experienced trauma therapists who wish to address countertransference and vicarious traumatization experiences. The main objective of the dissertation is to present a way for trauma therapists to use visual image making as a nonverbal form of dialogue within dyadic peer consultation in order to understand, address, and ameliorate their own countertransference and vicarious traumatization reactions. The dissertation's other objective, to describe a conceptual and scholarly framework for visual image making technique in peer consultation, forms the basis for the main objective. To accomplish these tasks, the dissertation addresses the needs of trauma therapists, shows why a visual image technique may be useful, and discusses how training in making visual images may help address these needs. It also presents a conceptual framework for using visual image making strategies when addressing countertransference and vicarious traumatization reactions. In a comprehensive literature review drawing from sources that address post-traumatic stress disorder, countertransference, vicarious traumatization, creativity, and art therapy, the dissertation discusses therapists' responses to traumatic material and assesses current methods for preventing or ameliorating the negative responses. Using the current literature as a source for comparison, the dissertation proposes a specific visual image making technique to address countertransference and vicarious traumatization reactions and a training program that introduces the technique to interested therapists. The training program design includes a description of the training workshop and a dyadic peer consultation practice period for experienced trauma therapists, as well as some reflections on the training workshop and the visual image making process. The dissertation ends with some recommendations for research.