Glossary and Terms


CPSU Community and Public Sector Union
DFFH Department of Families, Fairness and Housing
DJCS Department of Justice and Community Safety
DWG Delegated Work Group
EWS EWS Employee Wellbeing Service
EAP EAP Employee Assistance Program
HR Human Resources
HSR Health and Safety Representative
ISCRR Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research
MoG Machinery of Government
OHS Occupational Health and Safety
OHS Act Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Pro-QOL Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue Professional Quality of Life questionnaire: a widely used self-assessment measure of Compassion
VPS Victorian Public Service
VTPAT Vicarious Trauma Prevention and Awareness Project

Trauma related terms

What is Vicarious Trauma? Page and Robertson (2021), in a research article focussed on Corrections workers, note that there has been a proliferation of terms used to describe the adverse impacts of the indirect exposure to trauma associated with working with traumatised communities and people. They comment that these terms are “…often applied interchangeably, creating confusion about their distinctive character and their precise phenomenology” (p.2).
Direct and Indirect engagement with trauma

A key aspect of this Vicarious Trauma Awareness and Prevention Toolkit (VTPAT) is the focus on indirect engagement with, or exposure to, other people’s trauma and suffering. Indirect engagement with trauma material includes things like listening to someone talk about trauma they experienced or reading a client’s case history that includes details of trauma. Indirect trauma exposure is different from direct trauma and also different from workplace violence and aggression. These are important workplace health and safety issues in their own right, but they are not the focus of this toolkit.

The definitions below outline the way that we have been using various terms in the VTPAT, however it is important to note there is no universal consensus among researchers and clinicians.

STS- Secondary Traumatic Stress A trauma response in the ‘helper’ who assists a person that has experienced a significant trauma. The term STS is often used in a very similar way to Vicarious Trauma. We use “STS” to refer to a) situations where the traumatic event has been recent and has been a single incident or contained event, and b) the focus is on PTSD-like symptoms in the helper, to differentiate from the cumulative nature of vicarious trauma. We want to differentiate between these immediate impacts of helping a trauma survivor, and the long-term cumulative impacts of regular empathic engagement with the trauma and suffering of other people.
VT- Vicarious Trauma

The term ‘Vicarious Trauma’ is sometimes used in two slightly different ways. The first is to say that VT is the indirect exposure to trauma itself. For example, when listening to a client talk about something traumatic that happened to them, ‘VT’ is used to say the worker is being exposed to VT in the act of listening: they are vicariously experiencing the trauma of the other person.

The second use of the term VT is used to describe the impacts on the worker of this exposure to other people’s trauma. For example, some researchers describe VT as a work-related injury, or a psychological condition with particular symptoms.

Trauma Survivor Trauma survivor, altering cognitive schemas regarding the self, others and the world.
VT-ORG – Vicarious Trauma Organisational Readiness Guide. A survey used to identify organisation-wide factors that can either mitigate or exacerbate the impacts of vicarious trauma.
Compassion Fatigue