Vicarious Trauma in Organizations Often Goes Viral

Stress and Trauma Can be Contagious in Organizations

In any group, such as organizations and businesses, stress and trauma can act like a virus–spreading very quickly. It is called “vicarious trauma” and can be caused by several kinds of situations.

Just one occurs in organizations whose customers or clients live under a lot of stress or trauma. Employees automatically absorb their clients’ trauma and begin reacting as if they, too, were experiencing first-hand trauma.

 Example at a Large Health Center

I consulted with a large public health center for a time. By definition, their clients are people who are experiencing serious emotional pain, some of them for their whole lives. The people who worked directly with clients heard their stories. They couldn’t help but imagine the scenes and feel what it would be like to go through their clients’ experiences. Inevitably, the trauma permeated into them, and their nervous systems inevitably reacted the same way they would react if the employees, themselves, were literally going through the emotional pain and traumatic stress.

Viral Traumatic Stress

Here is where it becomes even more contagious. First, employees with direct contact to traumatized clients “catch” traumatic stress. They react to their co-workers out of this nervous system state and soon, like a virus, this vicarious painful experience and even behavior spreads throughout the organization, even to top management, which never meets clients directly.

In organizations such as the health center, employees either become overly reactive and it’s like there are constant conflict-fires erupting, or people start becoming overwhelmed, tired, spaced out and numbed out emotionally. If nothing is done to become aware of vicarious trauma and to alleviate it, the organization almost inevitably becomes increasingly dysfunctional.

EFT Helps with Vicarious Trauma

EFT Tapping is amazingly effective in alleviating emotional pain and its symptoms and, of course, vicarious trauma. If an organization has experienced a specific painful or scary event, I can work with whole groups or individuals. Most people respond quite quickly and their emotional pain is alleviated, bringing them back to their normal, productive selves.

Organizational Consulting

Longer-term issues can also be resolved:

  • Fears resulting from lay-offs of colleagues
  • Stress from merging two companies or departments
  • Conflicts among employees or departments
  • Management/employee issues


These issues can be resolved through a combination of executive coaching, management coaching, role clarification, coaching for management-employee relations, and group and individual EFT.

For more information on organizational consulting, check out my website pages on Organizational Consulting. There’s also more information on stress and trauma on my Stress and Trauma page.

Wishing you a free and joyful life,