CBA Record May-June 2024

mind. Be mindful of your substance use and cut back where needed – it can be easy for a post-work glass of wine to turn into several glasses without realizing. You can also take steps with clients to communicate more effectively and decrease the likelihood that you might develop symptoms of secondary trauma. Active listening and empathic commu nication are two cornerstone communi cation strategies you can employ to help your client feel heard and understood. Employ a non-judgmental attitude and be mindful of how you phrase questions to avoid victim-blaming. Be honest and explain why you are asking specific ques tions that might trigger them. It’s also important to be aware of your body language and environmental factors when interacting with clients. Body lan guage can convey judgment even when your words or tone do not. Relatedly, be sure to not lean over, sit too close to, or touch a client (for example, a pat on the back to offer comfort) without first asking for consent. If you are discussing details of a traumatic event, ensure that the room is private. Have tissues prepared, make sure the client is hydrated and fed, and take breaks. Local lawyer and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Tatiana Duchak spoke at the recent CBA seminar “How To… Communicate with Clients in Moments of Crisis.” If you are interested in learning more about specific tech niques and communication strategies to help interface with clients in crisis, you can view a recording of the seminar at Taking steps to better care for yourself is essential, but taking steps to better care for your clients as well will help improve both of your experiences in working together. Helping a client through a crisis in a way that is mindful for both of your needs will help mitigate the impact of secondary trauma in your work.


Clients in Crisis and Secondary Trauma L awyers and legal professionals often interact with clients during some of the more stressful moments or peri

lawyers, who are already more at risk of developing substance use issues, increased use of alcohol and drugs is also a behav ioral symptom. Lastly, emotional symp toms can include depression, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, reduced ability to feel empathy towards clients, dread or resent ment towards client interactions, intrusive imagery or thoughts, insensitivity to emo tional content, and even suicidal thoughts. Legal professionals are routinely among the top five professional demo graphics most at risk for trauma expo sure. The profession is a perfect storm for professional risk factors that put workers at greater risk of developing secondary trauma. These risk factors include things like repetitive interpersonal contact with traumatized clients, long hours of difficult work in a competitive environment, lack of training in skills like active listening or mental health and well-being, and roles that might lead towards a lack of bound aries with clients. If any of these experiences sound famil iar, the good news is that there are steps you can take to address symptoms of sec ondary trauma. While nothing can com pare to ongoing work with a professional therapist, psychoeducation is the first step towards understanding what you’re expe riencing. Books such as The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk or Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk are great places to start. If you can, limiting your exposure to difficult people will also be helpful. Self-care practices such as having strong exercise and sleep routines, healthy social ization, and eating a healthy diet are important ways to care for your body and

ods in their lives. The heightened stress of these moments often manifests in the cli ent’s behaviors and emotions, sometimes in ways that are challenging to navigate or understand as their legal representa tion. Not only can this be frustrating for the individuals in the room who aren’t in crisis, but this sort of work can put those same professionals at risk for developing their own symptoms of secondary trauma. With May being Mental Health Aware ness Month, now seems like a good time to take a step back from addressing con cerns related to technology and reflect on this transference and steps you can take to prevent it. Also known as compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma, secondary trauma results from exposure to traumatized individuals or details of traumatic events. Though the lawyer does not directly expe rience the trauma or traumatic event, they can develop physical, emotional, or behavioral symptoms that can profoundly impact their well-being. Physical symptoms of secondary trauma can include exhaustion, insom nia, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, grinding teeth at night, and even heart palpitations. Behavioral symptoms can include volatile displays of emotion (like yelling at your kids or crying more than usual), avoidance of clients, excessive TV intake, consuming high-trauma media as entertainment, avoiding colleagues or staff gatherings, avoiding social events, impaired decision-making, and compro mised care for clients. Concerningly for

Anne Haag is the CBA’s Practice Management Advisor, a certified crisis counselor, and volunteers as a patient advocate in the ER.

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