U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Https

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

About The Toolkit

The VTT Model (See chart 1)

The VTT introduces a new model for examining and conceptualizing the effects of vicarious trauma along a spectrum of reactions to the work-related trauma exposure that victim services providers and first responders experience every day. While individuals respond to this exposure in a number of different ways, a change in their world-view is considered inevitable—people either become more cynical or fearful, and/or they become more appreciative of what they have. Responses to vicarious trauma can be negative, neutral, or positive; can change over time; and can vary from case to case, particularly with prolonged exposure.

  • Vicarious traumatization is a negative reaction to trauma exposure and includes a range of psychosocial symptoms.
  • neutral reaction may reflect ways that an individual's resilience, experiences, support, and coping strategies manage the traumatic material.
  • Vicarious resilience and vicarious transformation are newer concepts reflecting the positive effects of our work. For instance, individuals may draw inspiration from a victim's resilience that strengthens their own mental fortitude. Just as victims can be transformed in positive ways by their trauma, so can victim service providers and first responders. Compassion satisfaction reflects the sense of meaning that is gained from working in the fields of victim services and first responders. Such positive outcomes can motivate and, in turn, protect against the negative effects of trauma exposure.

 

Creation of the Toolkit

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime awarded a grant to Northeastern University's Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice to work with stakeholders in the field to develop the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT)—a state-of-the-art repository of nearly 500 resources compiled to assist victim services and first responder agencies and organizations in raising awareness about and addressing vicarious trauma.

In developing this first-of-its-kind online resource, the VTT Project Team conducted a broad national search for existing policies, procedures, practices, and programs. It included an extensive literature review as well as a national survey that elicited more than 8,000 responses, including submissions of related resources. A national team of interdisciplinary experts convened to review, revise, and finalize the content and resources; and first responders and victim service providers from seven diverse communities around the country pilot-tested the preliminary toolkit and provided their feedback.

The VTT uses the term "vicarious trauma" broadly to include other related terms such as secondary traumatic stress (STS), compassion fatigue (CF), or critical incident stress (CIS). These terms, often used interchangeably, have distinct and overlapping definitions, as illustrated in the Glossary of Terms.

 

Who Should Use the Toolkit

The VTT focuses on organizational responses to work-related exposure to trauma. While some resources in the toolkit may be useful to individuals, the VTT is intended to provide organizations with the tools they need to fulfill their responsibility to support staff and become more vicarious trauma-informed.

Resources in the VTT have been reviewed and vetted for inclusion based on their appropriateness for and relevance to the following disciplines:

  • Victim services, including system-based victim assistance programs, community nonprofit agencies (e.g., rape crisis centers, domestic violence agencies), grassroots organizations, child and adult protective services, court-appointed special advocates, and children's advocacy centers.
  • Emergency medical services (EMS), including independent agencies and those that are part of a fire services organization.
  • Fire services, including both paid and volunteer departments.
  • Law enforcement, including police, sheriffs, and tribal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

The VTT is organized by discipline to help you quickly and easily find the information you need. However, the resources in the VTT are relevant to all fields, regardless of professional discipline, as well as allied professionals who work for or with these agencies, such as mental health counselors, dispatchers, chaplains, forensic interviewers, sexual assault response teams (SART), sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), school-based health professionals, and faith-based organizations.

Organizations have an ethical mandate of a duty to train wherein workers are taught about the potential negative effects of the work and how to cope.

(Munroe et al. 1995)

 

How To Use the Toolkit To Become Vicarious Trauma-Informed

In any organization, garnering the commitment and support of its leadership is key to embarking upon a process to become vicarious trauma-informed. With that support, an organization may then use the Vicarious Trauma—Organizational Readiness Guide (VT–ORG) to conduct an assessment of its current strengths and gaps in responding to the vicarious trauma experienced by its staff. This assessment will then guide the development of a comprehensive plan that addresses vicarious trauma due to both cumulative exposure to daily incidents of crime or violence and single acts of mass violence and terrorism.

Do It Yourself - The Blueprint for a Vicarious Trauma-Informed Organization is now available online as a step-by-step guide for your organization.

Let Us Help - The OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) offers training and technical assistance on the toolkit at no cost through a range of formats. If you’re interested in bringing the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit to your organization or community, contact OVC TTAC to hear about TTA options that include conference workshops, customized training, and virtual technical assistance to assess where your organization or community is now and to create an action plan. Visit www.ovcttac.gov to find out how to apply or call 1–866–682–8822 for more information.

 

Acknowledgments

The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) is a model of true interagency partnerships and collaboration. The VTT Project Team included representatives from national and local organizations with expertise in their respective fields and in vicarious trauma. The project team members' dedication, active engagement, and leadership guided the project from its inception to completion, ensuring its relevance for all of the intended and related disciplines. Several national organizations also encouraged their members to participate in the survey and the pilot site recruitment process, enabling an even greater reach to professionals in the field. We are exceedingly grateful to the following agencies, organizations, and individuals who dedicated their time, expertise, ideas, and collaborative spirit to the creation of this toolkit.

VTT Project Team

Northeastern University, Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice

  • Beth Molnar, ScD, Principal Investigator
  • Janet Fine, MS, Project Director
  • Karen Kalergis, MA, Product Coordinator
  • Domenic Corey, Erin Crocker, Sean Hallinan, Andrea Hill, Kristin Lees, and Jessie Wolfe, student graduate assistants
  • Corey Covell, Charlotte Gray, and Felicia Simmons, undergraduate co-op students

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery

  • Katherine Manners, MEd, LMFT, Resource Coordinator
  • Lisa Tieszen, MA, Resource Coordinator

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center

  • Gina Scaramella, MSW, LICSW
  • Lois Glass, MSW, LICSW
  • Vanessa Seibald, MSW, LICSW

International Association of Chiefs of Police

  • Aviva Kurash, MSW
  • Michael Rizzo
  • Jocelyn Roland, PhD, ABPP
  • Sgt. Christopher Scallon, MPsy, IACP Fellow

International Association of Fire Chiefs

  • Shawn Kelley

International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies

  • Gil Reyes, PhD
  • Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD

National Association of State EMS Officials

  • Karen Owens

National Center for Victims of Crime

  • Susan Howley
  • Rebecca Dreke, MSSW

National Children's Advocacy Center

  • Chris Newlin, MS, LPC
  • Karen Hangartner, LMSW
  • Muriel Wells, MA, MLIS

Office for Victims of Crime

  • Meg Morrow, JD
  • Kimberly Kelberg
  • Bethany Case
  • Adrian Wilairat
  • William Petty, PhD
  • Maria Acker

Other Supporting National Organizations

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • National Children's Alliance
  • National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Pilot Site Teams

The VTT Project Team is indebted to all of the seven pilot site teams from around the country, whose patience, dedication, time, and expertise contributed significantly to the pilot site study by testing the toolkit over several months. The pilot sites individually and collectively provided meaningful feedback through surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews. They are a testament to the value and spirit of volunteerism; their efforts helped ensure that the VTT is robust, relevant, and useful to countless colleagues in their respective fields of practice.

Allegany and Cattauragus County, Olean, New York

  • Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office
  • Child Advocacy Center, Southern Tier Health Care System
  • City of Olean Fire Department
  • Seneca Nation Health Systems
  • Trans Am Ambulance Services

Buncombe County, Asheville, North Carolina

  • Asheville Fire Department
  • Buncombe County Sheriff's Office
  • Department of Emergency Medical Services of Buncombe County
  • Helpmate Domestic Violence Agency

Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Cambridge Fire Department
  • Cambridge Police Department
  • Cambridge Public Health Department, Cambridge Health Alliance, Victims of Violence Program
  • Emergency Communications Center
  • Pro Emergency Medical Services

Central Texas Urban Community, Austin, Texas

  • Austin Emergency Medical Services
  • Austin Fire Department
  • City of Austin Police Department
  • Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protective Services

Chicago, Illinois

  • Chicago Children's Advocacy Center
  • Chicago Emergency Medical Services
  • Chicago Fire Department
  • Chicago Police Department, Special Investigations Unit
  • Chicago YWCA
  • City of Chicago Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Cook County Sheriff's Department

Glendale, Arizona

  • Glendale Family Advocacy Center
  • Glendale Fire Department/Emergency Medical Services
  • Glendale Police Department
  • Victim Services for Police Department

Great Falls, Montana

  • Great Falls Emergency Medical Services
  • Great Falls Police Department
  • Victim-Witness Assistance Services

Resources from the Field for the Field

The VTT Project Team was committed to ensuring that the toolkit was created by and for the field, and was awed by the outpouring of interest and contributions from numerous agencies, organizations, and individual practitioners across the country. We would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey and submitted resources for consideration:

  • Anchorage Police Department (Alaska)
  • Arlington County Fire Department (Virginia)
  • Cambridge Health Alliance (Massachusetts)
  • Casa Myrna Vasquez, Inc. (Massachusetts)
  • Central Minnesota EMS Region Critical Incident Stress Management Team
  • Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (Ohio)
  • Cornerstone Advocacy Service (Minnesota)
  • Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center (New York)
  • Denver Police Department (Colorado)
  • EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program (Connecticut)
  • Evansville Fire Department (Indiana)
  • Franklin County Department of Public Safety (Virginia)
  • Germantown Fire Department (Maryland)
  • Great Falls Emergency Management (Montana)
  • Great Falls Police Department (Montana)
  • Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Laboratory, Critical Incident Stress Management Program
  • Irvine Police Department (California)
  • Louisiana Department of Social Services, Office of Community Services
  • Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (California)
  • Lotus Heart Counseling (Oregon)
  • McCall Fire Department (Idaho)
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network
  • Norfolk Police Department (Virginia)
  • Protect All Children Today (PACT) (Australia)
  • Roanoke Police Department (Virginia)
  • Sacramento County Sheriff's Department (California)
  • San Francisco Police Department (California)
  • Sexual Violence Research Initiative, South African Medical Research Council
  • Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney (Washington)
  • Support Center for Child Advocates, Center for Excellence in Advocacy (Pennsylvania)
  • Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protective Services
  • The Mindability Group (Arizona)
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Valley Regional Fire Authority (Washington)
  • Ventura County Sheriff's Office Lifetime Wellness Program: Kaizan Project Recommendations (California)
  • Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Virginia Critical Incident Stress Management
  • Virginia Department of State Police
  • West Chester University, Graduate Social Work Department (Pennsylvania)
  • West Virginia CISM

Developers of New Tools for the Field

Both the pilot study and the national team identified several gaps in vicarious trauma-related resources. The VTT Project Team addressed some of these gaps by creating 16 new tools for the field. The team owes enormous gratitude to the following individuals and agencies for bringing their knowledge, experience, and expertise to inform the creation of these new tools, and for their work on the toolkit itself:

  • Katherine Manners and Lisa Tieszen, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery
  • Lois Glass, Gina Scaramella, and Vanessa Seibald, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
  • Aviva Kurash, Michael Rizzo, Jocelyn Roland, and Sgt. Christopher Scallon, International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Shawn Kelley, International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • Karen Owens, National Association of State EMS Officials
  • Janet Fine, Karen Kalergis, Beth Molnar, Erin Crocker, and Kristin Lees, Northeastern University
  • Karan Parkin, Graphix for Change
  • Anne Douglass, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Charles Allen and Kathryn Stanley, William James College

Video Subjects

The VTT Project Team extends its appreciation to the talented individuals and organizations that contributed to the videos created for the VTT:

  • Lauryn Nwankpa and Robin Smith, Video/Action
  • Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
  • Lee Delulio
  • Sandra Elien
  • Norfolk, Virginia, Police Department
  • Norfolk, Virginia, Fire Department
  • Janet Yassen, LICSW