Feature: Aftershock - Addressing secondary trauma in a setting mindful of both clients and service providers

Published August 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 7

by Mandy Walker
photos by Adrian DiUbaldo

Barbara molfese sits in her small office at the Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center and remembers a client she counseled about an unintended pregnancy. The young woman, dressed in boys clothing, told Molfese about the incest and sexual assaults she’d experienced beginning when she was just five-years-old.

“You could just feel the pain sitting in a room with her,” said Molfese. “I felt heartbroken for her for the next couple of weeks. Sad, depressed. I just kept seeing her, picturing her in my mind.” Molfese, counseling supervisor and chaplain at the center, knew she was suffering from secondary trauma.

Like Molfese, Rene Brodeur, program director at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, can recall traumatic events, like attempted suicides or violence and the impact they’ve had on him. He also knows there are times when he can’t identify a single specific incident and yet has found himself experiencing secondary trauma.

Rene Brodeur, left, and Janet Walker of the Boulder Shelter for the homeless have a meeting along the trails west of the shelter.

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