What role do workplaces have in preventing secondary traumatic stress (STS) and its consequences?  

What can we do?

There are multiple strategies for addressing STS in the workplace. Evidence shows that a multi-dimensional approach—involving individual workers, supervisors and organizational policy—yields the best results. Here are several key strategies. Open the doors below to learn more.

Organizations and their leaders need to understand how exposure to trauma affects employees, workplace atmosphere, relationships with clients, patients, coworkers, and the public, and their bottom line.


Unpredictability and uncertainty add to workers’ stress. The more employees understand about what happens at work—the organization’s or department’s goals, challenges and culture—the more control they feel.

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Clear communication.

When supervisors offer information and talk openly about STS, they shrink the stigma associated with it and create an atmosphere in which workers can acknowledge the painful impact of their work without fear of judgment or job loss.

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Regular, one-on-one meetings between a worker and their supervisor provide a trusting, collaborative space to explore feelings and reactions to a difficult incident, to gain support and to build awareness and skills for future work.

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Reflective supervision.

Workplaces may establish self-care groups, buddy systems, yoga/mindfulness practices, emotional “safety plans,” informal gatherings following a crisis or regular meetings to check in, set intentions and build community.

Resiliency training.

Policy changes to prevent and ease STS can include adjusting caseloads, establishing flextime scheduling, strengthening family leave, devoting resources to equity and inclusion, encouraging and incorporating worker feedback and instituting professional development that includes physical, cognitive and emotional learning experiences.


Workplaces may guide employees to outside resources, including individual therapists, Employee Assistance Programs, substance abuse treatment or family counseling to help with the effects of STS. 


Leaders must recognize that organizations as well as individuals can suffer trauma; they must be willing to self-assess, ask questions, accept critique and work in good faith to translate trauma-related knowledge into meaningful change. 

Commitment to learning and growth.

5 Minute De-stress - At your desk or with your team

Learn from the science of stress and bring yourself back to comfort and creativity. Check out these short videos and choose from quick, effective practices to prevent, reduce and manage symptoms of secondary traumatic stress.

Rebecca Bryan, DNP, an adult nurse practitioner whose passion is raising inter-professional awareness about trauma-informed approaches to care, guides you through three brief processes that will take your tension away.

Are you in a leadership role? Supporting work time to de-stress can reduce risk of STS and improve team productivity.

Philadelphia is known as the city of neighborhoods. Join certified trauma-sensitive yoga instructor and Philadelphian - Shenise Nicole Henderson, MBA, MSS, LCSW - as she brings you to her neighborhood for breathing and movement that you can do wherever you are - in your own space. Feel better with these brief videos covering gratitude, grieving, and growth.


Real World Workplace Stories

The full story: One-hour interviews in which leadership and staff share how their workplaces have grappled with traumatic stress, including how racism affects the workplace. Hear what’s working…and what’s not.

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The PATF Workgroup on Secondary Traumatic Stress compiled this set of resources. Please contact us for any recommended additions or corrections, so that we can continue to expand this robust set of resources.