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Houston Matters

Dealing With Vicarious Trauma: When Someone Else’s Experience Becomes Your Own

An upcoming Houston workshop addresses how interpreters often suffer symptoms of trauma after working with clients who’ve actually experienced it.


Brigida Gonzalez (right) works as an interpreter at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, Calif.


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On July 30, the Jung Center will present The Ethics of Self Care, a workshop on something called vicarious or secondary trauma, which is when someone experiences the symptoms of trauma after witnessing or hearing about someone else's experience, particularly from life-threatening situations. This most often affects those who work frequently with victims of trauma, such as health care professionals or members of the legal community.

However, the presentation at the Jung Center will focus specifically on the work of interpreters, who not only have to translate someone's words, but also their experiences and emotions, interpreting them first-hand.

To discuss how interpreters deal with vicarious trauma, in the audio above Craig Cohen talks with Graciela Zozaya, a former interpreter who now trains other interpreters, and the Jung Center's executive director Sean Fitzpatrick.