Creating a Secondary Traumatic
Stress–Informed CAC and MDT
By Karen Hangartner
Although great strides have been made in the CAC world to increase awareness of the impact of working with child trauma victims, we still struggle to implement policies and strategies at our organizations to address the potential impact for staff and MDT members.

The current thinking around secondary traumatic stress (STS) is that it is a continuum, as illustrated here. 

The thought is that, at different times or in response to different incidents - personal or professional - we can move left or right across the continuum. The goal for any organization is to have policies and strategies in place that will prevent staff from reaching the end of the continuum and developing full-blown PTSD.

For most organizations, leaders begin to search for ideas to implement when staff are already experiencing STS symptoms and/or functional impairment. Only when we can see the impact of this work on staff do we search for ways to help mitigate the negative affective and behavioral responses.

There is tremendous opportunity to create and implement strategies at the beginning of the continuum, so that we have policies and practices in place to prevent staff from experiencing PTSD. Here are a few ideas:

1. During the interview process, give fair warning about the potential impacts of this work. 

2. As a part of on-boarding new staff, include information and training about STS. Here are some free training opportunities:

3. Have conversations with staff and with the MDT about the impacts of this work. When we can talk about the fact that we are impacted by this work not because we are weak but because we care about the kids and families we serve, we can begin to lessen the stigma. 

4. Make your organization a “No Slime” zone. Françoise Mathieu’s Low Impact Debriefing model helps to control the amount of traumatic material that staff is exposed to. You can find more information here.

5. Develop a Hot Walk and Talk Protocol. This model is a from Pat Fisher designed to support a staff member after a difficult incident when they are experiencing stress reactions. You can find more information here.

6. Provide opportunities for staff and MDT members to share strategies they use to manage their well-being as opposed to everyone trying to figure it out on their own through trial and error. Here are some great suggestions to start the conversation.

7. Encourage staff to take time for lunch breaks and vacations. Everyone needs downtime to re-charge. Being on call 24/7 is not sustainable. 

8. Provide opportunities for staff and MDT members to develop relationships outside of work. Team lunches, fun days, parties, and celebrations are great opportunities to learn more about each other. It is easier to be open about the impact of this work when we have trusting relationships. 

9. Assess how STS-informed your CAC is by administering the Secondary Traumatic Stress-Informed Organizational Assessment. This is a free assessment that can be accessed here.

10. Provide additional guidance for supervisors and leaders. Here are some resources developed by the National Traumatic Stress Network: 

11. Learn more about STS. Additional resources can be found here: 

12. Attend the 35th International Symposium on Child Abuse on March 18-21, 2019, in Huntsville, AL. There will be an STS track with some of the foremost experts in North America presenting workshops. There will also be a panel discussion where you can “ask the experts” questions you may have about STS. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but it offers some ideas to get you started in creating a secondary traumatic stress–informed CAC and MDT. If you have questions or if you want to discuss these ideas more in-depth, do not hesitate to contact me. This is my favorite topic to talk about!

Karen Hangartner, LMSW
Project Director, Southern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center
Trauma-Focused Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy Training
Registration Now Open!

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy trains professionals on the evidence-based psychotherapy approach designed to treat traumatic stress in children and adolescents. Participants learn how to administer a trauma-specific assessment, how to implement Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to special populations, and how to engage centers.

May 1 - 3, 2019
Cost: $249
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Spotlight is a newsletter prepared by Southern Regional CAC that focuses on current topics, ideas, trainings, and conferences which are designed to further the knowledge and practice of CAC professionals within the region. We hope you find the information helpful! Let us know if you have specific topics you’d like to see in future newsletters.
This publication is funded through grant #2016-CI-FX-K002 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components, operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this publication (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).
Southern Regional CAC | #justtryingtohelpsomekids | Vol. 1 No. 10: Dec 2018