Secondary Trauma Awareness Resilience & Support (STARS)


“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to walk through water without getting wet”

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

What is Secondary Trauma?

Charles Figley (1993) defined secondary trauma as “…the natural consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other- the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.”  Individuals in helping professions are significantly more likely to experience secondary trauma symptoms.


Helping professionals include but are not limited to: social workers, counselors, marriage & family therapists, psychologists, supervisors, administrators, support staff, first responders, educators, health care providers, advocates, attorneys, clergy, and volunteers.


Laura van Dernoot Lipsky (2009) identifies secondary trauma, or trauma exposure response, to include the following symptoms:

• Feeling helpless and hopeless • A sense that one can never do enough • Hypervigilance • Diminished creativity • Inability to embrace complexity • Minimizing • Chronic exhaustion/physical ailments • Inability to listen/deliberate avoidance • Dissociative moments • Sense of persecution • Guilt • Fear • Anger and cynicism • Inability to empathize/numbing • Addictions • Grandiosity



Check your secondary trauma and compassion satisfaction using the Professional Quality of Life Scale, developed by Dr. Beth Hudnall Stamm (2009) by clicking here 

What is Burnout?

Helping professionals may also experience burnout.  Hudnall Stamm (2010) defines burnout as “one element of the negative effects of caring that is known as Compassion Fatigue… [it] is associated with feelings of hopelessness and difficulties in dealing with work or doing your job effectively.”


Symptoms of burnout include:

  • Physical/mental exhaustion
  • Loss of motivation
  • Low job satisfaction
  • Feelings of powerlessness at work
  • Cynicism
  • Decreased empathy for clients


Check your burnout symptoms with a quick burnout quiz from by clicking here



Secondary Trauma: Awareness, Resilience & Support (STARS) Group

The Secondary Trauma: Awareness, Resilience & Support (STARS) group was developed by Suzi Rutti, LISW-S in 2016.  The group meets quarterly and offers a confidential space for helping professionals.  The group is a combination of education, skill building and support.  This group is limited to ten participants per session.  Please note this group is meant for education and support and does not replace individual or group therapy.


Due to health advisories, STARS groups are currently taking place via Zoom.


Upcoming group dates:


Thursday, May 6th 1pm-2:30pm EST Registration


Cost: $25 per group



Training & Consultation


Consultation is available to individuals and/or agencies for support implementing secondary trauma groups and services.  For support with creating a self-sustaining secondary trauma group at your practice, please contact info@rutticounselingcom


Secondary trauma training is available to the community as well as private agencies/groups.  To schedule a private training, please contact info@rutticounselingcom


Upcoming Training Dates

Understanding Secondary Trauma: Implications for Clinicians

October 17, 2020 Live Webinar

Information & Registration






Figley, C.R., ed. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized.  New York, NY: Routledge.


Van Dernoot Lipsky, L. & Burk, C. (2009). Trauma stewardship: an everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others.  Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.


Hudnall Stamm, B. (Ed) (1999). Secondary traumatic stress: self-care issues for clinicians, researchers & editors.  Baltimore, MD: Sidran Press.