Vicarious traumatization and transformation in Holocaust interviewers : a qualitative investigation of the impact of indirect traumatic exposure / by Laura S. Hertz.
This study was a systematic exploration of the experience of interviewing Holocaust survivors and the factors affecting the interview process and outcome. A qualitative methodology, grounded theory, provided the framework and tools for the study design, data collection, and analysis. Twelve participants, all interviewers of Holocaust survivors, were recruited from eight organizations where oral history narratives have been gathered. The participants were interviewed and their responses classified into three categories: (1) the interviewers' emotional reactions to the interviews; (2) the cognitive and behavioral actions they took to facilitate the process and outcome of the experience; and (3) the consequences of their actions. The participants' reactions, actions, and consequences were examined over three time periods (i.e., before, during, and after the interviews) and divided into more descriptive subcategories. The salient factors were also grouped into three categories, which pertained to the characteristics of the interviewers, the interviews, and the survivors. The categories were then divided into subcategories. The central theme integrating the categories was the participants' closeness/connection to or distance from the Holocaust, the survivors, and their testimonies. This theme provided a unifying explanation for the participants' interest in the interviews, the effort they applied toward achieving a good outcome, their ability to relate to the survivors and elicit the survivors' testimonies, the effects of the interviews, and the impact over time. Although several participants described negative effects (e.g., dissociation, hypervigilance, flashbacks) consistent with secondary traumatic stress reactions, none viewed the overall experience as traumatic. Rather, they considered it positive and meaningful. They derived a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from conducting the interviews. In doing so, they developed greater interpersonal connections; interviewing skills; confidence; curiosity; knowledge; understanding; tolerance; perspective; gratitude; hope; clarification of values, priorities, and career direction; Jewish identification; awareness of prejudice and violence; and social activism. The salutary outcomes outweighed the adverse consequences, thereby mitigating them. By illuminating the effects of indirect traumatic exposure and the process of adjustment and growth over time, the study's findings facilitate efforts to prevent adverse consequences while fostering positive outcomes. Thus, the study has important implications for education, training, supervision, and treatment.
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