Vicarious Trauma and PTSD in Forensic Mental Health Professionals [2020]

In their article about countertransference and vicarious trauma in work with sexual offenders, Barros and colleagues highlight the importance of awareness of risk for vicarious trauma in forensic psychiatrists and psychologists. This commentary supports the need for more research related to the risk of vicarious trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in forensic experts. Also, forensic mental health professionals need to be aware of the level of risk to which they are exposed in their work evaluating and treating sexual offenders. As more knowledge has developed about PTSD and the diagnostic criteria have evolved between the fourth and fifth editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there is also more awareness of the effects of traumatic exposure on different professional groups and laypeople. For example, judicial authorities in Canada have recently become aware of the traumatic impacts of evidentiary material on jurors, including testimony, print, and video material. Workplace exposure to trauma in inpatient psychiatric centers has received limited research focus. Actual or threatened death or sexual violation in these settings can result in compassion fatigue and burnout. Exposure to video material in the workplace, particularly in forensic settings, can result in PTSD.

John M.W. Bradford and Giovana V. de Amorim Levin
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, September 2020, 48 (3)