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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Professionals working in a shared traumatic reality—that is, in a disaster in their home community—are doubly exposed: both as individuals who experienced the disaster at first hand and as professionals who treat people traumatized by it. This chapter opens with a discussion of the development of the concept of “shared traumatic reality” and a presentation of the five key features of professionals’ double exposure: intrusive anxiety, lapses of empathy, immersion in professional role, role expansion, and changes in place and time of work. It then presents the findings of studies of Israeli mental health professionals who lived and worked near the Gaza border during the 2009 Gaza War. The findings of the quantitative study of 63 professionals, highlight the unique contribution that lapses of empathy made to the professionals’ distress and that their immersion in their professional role made to their personal growth. The qualitative study presents two cases, one of an emergency worker, the other of a clinician in the course of ongoing work, both of whom were confronted with the need to choose between attending to their children or to their clients. The cases convey something of the process by which the choice was made and the professionals’ feelings about their choice afterwards. They suggest that some of the widespread distress reported by professionals working in the wake of communal disasters derives not solely from exposure to their clients’ traumatic experience or even from their primary exposure to the disaster, but from their conflict of roles and loyalties.

Keywords: Double exposure, secondary traumatization, empathy, posttraumatic growth, communal disaster, professional healthcare

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