Preferred Name

Stewart Nafziger

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Debbie Sturm

Robin Anderson

A. Renee Staton


The National Council for Behavioral Health (2013) estimated that the majority of clients in public behavioral healthcare settings have experienced trauma. Providing high quality mental health services to clients who suffer from traumatic stress can take a toll on the professional (Trippany et al., 2004). Vicarious trauma is a unique form of traumatic stress that results from treating clients who suffer from traumatic stress (McCann & Pearlman, 1990). It has been recognized by the American Counseling Association (2011) as an occupation hazard. Yet, not all professionals who treat clients suffering from traumatic stress develop it. There is a lack of consensus on whether or not childhood adversity predisposes mental health professionals to develop vicarious trauma (Branson, 2019). Some suggest that defense styles may impact the relationship childhood adversity and vicarious trauma (Adam & Riggs, 2008). The purpose of the present study was to explore the role of defense styles in the relationship between childhood adversity and vicarious trauma among mental health professionals in Virginia’s Community Service Boards (VA-CSB). Results indicated that an immature defense style partially mediated the relationship between childhood adversity and vicarious trauma among mental health professionals. Implications for professional counselors, educators and supervisors are discussed.



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