Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Education

Supervisor

Dr. Susan Rodger

Abstract

This study investigated the role that cognitive deficits in emotional processing (i.e., alexithymia) play in the development of traumatic responses, such as secondary traumatic stress (STS), following work with clients who have experienced trauma. Using a prospective cohort of novice counselling psychology and pre-service education students, participants were measured for traits of alexithymia and STS before and after their first practicum placements. Elevated rates of STS consistent with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder were identified in participants following initial practicum placement. Correlation analyses demonstrated that alexithymia and alexithymia symptom clusters were significantly, and robustly, associated with STS and STS symptom clusters. Finally, hierarchal multiple regression analysis found that scores of alexithymia, pre-trauma exposure, predicted a significant amount of the variance in post-trauma exposure STS. Implications for identification, prevention, treatment, and destigmatization of negative emotional responses to working with clients who have experienced trauma are discussed along with future directions of study.