Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Diane DePanfilis

Committee Members

Mary Cavanaugh

Paul Kurzman

Subject Categories

Social Work


Vicarious Resilience, Trauma, Practitioners, Resilience, Positive Effects


Vicarious Resilience is the positive impact that practitioners may experience when working with individuals who have lived through traumatic events. The effects of this phenomenon may be noticed as changes in life goals and perspective, client-inspired hope, increased recognition of clients’ spirituality as a therapeutic resource, increased capacity for resourcefulness, increased self-awareness and self-care practices, increased consciousness about power and privilege relative to clients’ social location, and increased capacity for remaining present while listening to trauma narratives.

While prior research into vicarious resilience has focused primarily on practitioners in trauma-specific settings, this quantitative dissertation studied the experiences of a convenience sample of 302 practitioners working in a variety of human services settings. Using an online survey platform, respondents provided demographic and situational information, and completed two standardized instruments: The Vicarious Resilience Scale (VRS) and the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL).

The sample population had a mean score of 95.5 on the VRS, indicating that they scored at or above the 70th percentile of the VRS, indicating a strong prevalence of vicarious resilience experiences within this population of practitioners across a variety of settings. In contrast to prior studies of this measure, vicarious resilience was positively associated with other positive effects v (compassion satisfaction) and negatively associated with negative effects (burnout, secondary traumatic stress) measured. Vicarious resilience was not associated with the reported prevalence of clients with traumatic experiences within practitioners’ caseload. Of the demographic and situational factors reported, two—length of practice and the presence of trauma-informed supervision—were found to predict higher values of vicarious resilience within the sample.

Ultimately, the negative impact on practitioners of working with clients who have experienced traumatic events is more extensively studied and more widely understood than the positive impact. This dissertation demonstrates that this population of practitioners do experience vicarious resilience and highlights the need for further research into this phenomenon.

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Social Work Commons