Preventing Vicarious Trauma and Encouraging Self-Care in Clinical Legal Teaching


Vicarious trauma, sometimes called “compassion fatigue” or “secondary trauma,” is a term for the effect that working with survivors of trauma may have on counselors, therapists, doctors, attorneys, and others who directly help them. Vicarious traumatisation refers to harmful changes that occur in professionals’ views of themselves, others, and the world as a result of exposure to the graphic or traumatic experiences of their clients. While it is unusual for law students to experience vicarious trauma in a clinical legal education setting, there are good reasons to introduce the concept of vicarious trauma and measures to prevent vicarious trauma through law school clinic teaching. For many law students across a range of clinical contexts, clients will present with significant trauma histories. The trauma may be central to the representation, such as in a domestic violence context, or more removed. This chapter will define vicarious trauma and the risk factors for experiencing it. Further, it will explore how clinical law professors can teach and structure their clinics to minimise the risk of vicarious trauma to students. This chapter will also explore ways in which clinical professors may teach effective methods and strategies of self-care to students which the students will be able to carry forward with them into their own legal practices.








Law, Education


Education Law | Law

Book Editors

Matthew Atkinson,Ben Livings

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