Topic: Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Prevention & Intervention Programs

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Prevention & Intervention Programs:

Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Prevention & Intervention Programs are defined by the CEBC as programs, interventions, and practices that are designed to prevent the development of STS, or to reduce the impact of STS that has already occurred. Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is a trauma condition similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, in 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), expanded Criterion A for PTSD to include work-related events such as those experienced by repeatedly hearing about traumatic events from the survivors of the trauma or hearing about an extremely traumatic event. Despite high rates of indirect exposures by professionals working in the trauma field, these experiences may not always be repeated, or extreme, even though symptoms of distress and even functional impairment may occur. This makes STS a condition that can parallel PTSD but is not always the same as the disorder. In fact, STS symptoms may range in severity from mild to extreme, and that functional impairment at work may exist even in milder cases. In addition, the trauma and secondary trauma experienced by their clients and staff can affect organizations and the organizational culture. If left unaddressed, STS can have a negative impact on the ability of individuals and organizations to help children and families. Child welfare supervisors and administrators have the challenging task of developing and maintaining high-quality practice in an environment that can lead to traumatizing their staff.

  • Target population: Staff and practitioners (e.g., support staff, caseworkers, social workers, supervisors, managers, administrators, directors, etc.)
  • Services/types that fit: Services can target individuals, organizations, or both levels. Services may include professional development; coaching and mentoring; supervision; or individual and group interventions, as well as programs to address organizational factors, agency climate, leadership development, or supervision practices.
  • Delivered by: Child welfare professionals, supervisors, clinicians, trained paraprofessionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target the prevention or reduction of STS as a goal.
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) that examines STS outcomes, such as changes in symptom levels, behaviors, and/or functioning. In addition to demonstrating STS outcomes, programs may also examine organizational outcomes, such as improvement in workforce performance, satisfaction, or retention.

For further reading:
    Bride, B. E. (2007). Prevalence of secondary traumatic stress among social workers. Social Work, 52(1), 63–70.

    Cieslak, R., Shoji, K., Douglas, A., Melville, E., Luszczynska, A., & Benight, C. C. (2014). A meta-analysis of the relationship between job burnout and secondary traumatic stress among workers with indirect exposure to trauma. Psychological Services, 11(1), 75–86.

    Meadors, P., Lamson, A., Swanson, M., White, M., & Sira, N. (2010). Secondary traumatization in pediatric healthcare providers: Compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 60(2), 103–128.

    Ogińska-Bulik, N., Gurowiec, P. J., Michalska, P., & Kędra, E. (2021). Prevalence and predictors of secondary traumatic stress symptoms in health care professionals working with trauma victims: A cross-sectional study. PloS One, 16(2), Article e0247596.

    Sprang, G., Ford, J., Kerig, P., & Bride, B. (2018). Defining secondary traumatic stress and developing targeted assessments and interventions: Lessons learned from research and leading experts. Traumatology, 25(2), 72–81.

    Sprang, G., & Steckler, Z. (2023). Traumatic stress symptom expression following indirect exposure: A multidisciplinary investigation. Traumatology, 29(2), 224–232.

    Sprang, G., Whitt-Woosley, A., & Eslinger, J. (2022). Diagnostic and clinical utility of the Secondary Traumatic Stress Clinical Algorithm (STS-CA). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 37(21–22), NP19811-NP19826.

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Four Programs with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

Seven Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

    All workers in the helping professions who labor in trauma-exposed environments including direct service workers and support staff
  • Resilience Alliance
    Child welfare staff, supervisors, and administrators
  • Resilience and Coping for the Healthcare Community (RCHC) – non-responder
    Social service and health care providers who provide care to children, families, and communities after a natural disaster
  • Resilience for Trauma-Informed Professionals (R-TIP) – non-responder
    Any staff member, supervisor, or administrator who works in a context in which services are provided to trauma-exposed individuals, who ...
  • Restoring Resiliency Response (RRR)
    Frontline workers in the child protection, juvenile justice, and other social service fields
  • Sanctuary Model
    This program is not a client-specific intervention, but a full-system approach that targets the entire organization with the intention of ...
  • Stress-Less Initiative (SLI)
    Any staff member working directly or indirectly with individuals who have experienced trauma.

Topic Expert

Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Prevention & Intervention Programs topic area was added in 2024. Ginny Sprang, PhD, was the topic expert and was involved in identifying and rating any of the programs with an original load date in 2024 (as found on the bottom of the program's page on the CEBC) or others loaded earlier and added to this topic area when it launched. For any programs loaded after 2024, Dr. Sprang was not involved in identifying or rating them.