A vicarious trauma preventive approach. The Group Traumatic Episode Protocol EMDR and workplace affect in professionals who work with child abuse and neglect

  • George Tsouvelas
  • Michaila Chondrokouki
  • George Nikolaidis
  • Elan Shapiro
Keywords: Group EMDR, workplace stress, vicarious trauma, multi-disciplinary team


Workplaces that provide services and deal with abuse cases are often associated with high levels of work stress, burn out, and high expressed affect. The current intervention aimed at a more effective management of stress and affect in the workplace. EMDR therapy is an evidence-based treatment for PTSD and anxiety disorders. A Group EMDR protocol was applied to professionals working at “the House of the Child”, an innovative specialized Mental Health Unit that provides multi-disciplinary assessment, diagnosis and treatment services for children and adolescents survivors of abuse and neglect operated by the Association “The Smile of the Child”. The intervention included two sessions. The stabilization session took place for purposes of screening and preparation (self-regulation) and lasted 45 minutes. In the second session, which lasted 90 minutes, participants processed a recent stressful event that occurred in the workplace. The stressful event was not shared in the group. There were twenty participants and two facilitators, all of whom working at the unit. The Job Affect Scale, the Impact of Event Scale–R, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Subjective Units of Distress (SUD’s) were administered. The dependent (paired) t test showed significant reduction of the SUDs related to the stressful event, decrease in the avoidance, intrusion and hyperarousal symptoms. Moreover, reduction in the negative affect in the workplace was noted. The current pilot intervention provided indications for the usefulness of workplace interventions aiming at more effective stress management and better communication among the members of the multi-disciplinary team. Further research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of Group EMDR in workplace stress management and the prevention or processing of vicarious/secondary trauma.

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