After being awarded federal Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime funding in 2014, the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice at Northeastern University (now the Institute on Health Equity and Social Justice Research) created a first-of-its-kind and state-of-the-field online resource for victim assistance, emergency medical services, fire and law enforcement organizations to address vicarious trauma. Literature and resource materials were widely researched, compiled and vetted, and a rudimentary Toolkit was pilot-tested by the intended disciplines in seven communities with diverse demographics in all regions of the United States. Click here to read more about the pilot sites and their locations.
The national, interdisciplinary Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT) Project Team worked to ensure that the VTT is the most comprehensive and highest quality central repository of resources available to date for agencies and organizations seeking to become “vicarious trauma-informed.” The project’s overarching goal was to make a difference in the lives of first responders and victim assistance providers, to help ensure their health and well-being and to sustain the delivery of the highest quality services to those in need. We know that the most valuable resources are those actually being effectively used in the field. This project continuously broadened its literature and internet searches and cast a wide net into the targeted fields of practice to amass the research and tools ultimately incorporated into its content. As such, the Toolkit is inclusive of the most useful and relevant policies, procedures, practices and programs currently being utilized within the first responder and victim assistance fields.
In addition, the pilot study helped to refine a tool that was developed expressly for the Toolkit and has a two-fold purpose. The Vicarious Trauma Organizational Readiness Guide (VT-ORG) enables an agency to assess its strengths and gaps in core areas of organizational health. It is also designed to assist the Toolkit user in navigating its contents to find the resources needed to address identified gaps.
The final VT-ORG is the outcome of one year of pilot study, user review and feedback, and extensive application of the relevant evidence. Additionally, psychometric research by one of our PhD students showed it has excellent validity and reliability (paper currently undergoing peer review).
The pilot study and two national summits of experts from diverse disciplines illuminated additional gaps in resources. The project team reviewed the gap analysis and determined that some of the priority gaps identified were ones that could filled, at least in part, by collaboratively creating new tools. These tools include a set of six guidelines for agencies and organizations seeking to become vicarious trauma-informed and PowerPoint presentations with detailed instructor notes tailored to assist agencies of each targeted discipline in raising staff and leadership’s awareness about vicarious trauma.
In addition, short educational videos were recommended for inclusion in the Toolkit. As such, two videos were produced, one for victim services and one for first responders.
Each video accessed from the VTT Home Page provides a general overview of vicarious trauma. In addition, there is an introduction to the Toolkit, and testimonials from experts in each discipline on the duty and responsibility agencies and organizations have to address vicarious trauma. Content for the videos was drawn from field interviews conducted with diverse professionals from our intended disciplines. Most recently, a new tab was added “Where to Begin”) that gives a blueprint, or step-by-step instructions, for agencies and organizations to use for utilizing the VT-ORG and other tools to become more vicarious-trauma informed.