Thought Patterns Mediate the Development of Secondary Traumatic Stress in Social Workers

Tali Samson, Yaacov G. Bachner, Tamar Freud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Social workers’ exposure to their clients' trauma can lead to secondary traumatisation stress (STS). In light of cognitive theories suggesting the tendency for repetitive thought (RT) as being predictive of poor adjustment to traumatic events, the current study explores whether RT mediates the correlation between known STS predictors and its severity. Ninety social workers providing care to traumatised clients completed a self-report survey. Multiple regression analysis revealed a full mediation model, or that STS was positively associated with RT, which in turn was positively associated with STS. In addition, the direct effect of STS association with centrality of event was found to no longer be of significance. These findings suggest that interventions focused on combating rumination and increasing social workers’ awareness of their personal susceptibility could be effective. IMPLICATIONS In the course of caring for traumatised clients, social workers apply mechanisms, similar to those applied during direct exposure to trauma (i.e., peritraumatic dissociation). Social workers’ thought patterns were found to mediate the correlation between centrality of the traumatic encounter and secondary traumatic stress level. Interventions focused on combating rumination could provide social workers with suitable skills to cope with exposure to the traumatic experiences of their clients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-494
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2021


  • Centrality of Event
  • Peritraumatic Dissociation
  • Repetitive Thought
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress
  • Social Workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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