ATLANTA — It’s not enough for Distinguished University Professor of Social Work Brian Bride to help lead a study that provides the first coherent set of guidelines, best practices and principles aimed at preventing or reducing secondary traumatic stress (STS). Since its publication, he’s been making presentations and working with others to have the principles adopted and incorporated into curriculums and professional training programs across the globe.
For the study “Principles for Secondary Traumatic Stress-Responsive Practice: An Expert Consensus Approach,” published in the journal Psychological Trauma in August 2023, Bride led a research team of academics and practitioners who surveyed 31 international experts in STS to develop a set of individual and organizational guiding principles for practice that can be used to mitigate the occurrence and impact of STS.
“This article represents the first point in the 30-year study of STS that we could develop these guidelines with expert consensus — folks who are up on the literature of STS and practice — to identify the best broad framework of things that can be done to reduce STS by both individual practitioners and the organizations in which they work,” said Bride. In early 2023, he was named among the top 50 most impactful global contributors to social work journal scholarship, largely for his work in STS.
From the beginning, STS literature has emphasized individual-level strategies to reduce the impact of STS, including psychoeducation, self-care, skills training, use of clinical supervision and personal psychotherapy. Effective organizational strategies include regular supervision within supportive supervisory relationships, strong peer support networks, balanced and diverse caseloads, and STS awareness training.
“The individual and organizational principles are intricately linked,” Bride said. “The individual’s ability to monitor their STS and take actions to deal with it is dependent on the organizational culture and resources that make it possible to address them. If organizations are not providing the room and time for this to be done, if they’re not hiring supervisors who know what they’re doing, STS care becomes difficult for the individual to do.”
By informing best practices in STS mitigation for individuals and organizations who provide services to persons and communities who have experienced trauma, Bride and his colleagues are helping to improve the quality and effectiveness of services to traumatized populations. Although the research focused on behavioral health service providers, the principles may also help professionals in education, child welfare, health services, victim services, criminal justice, disaster relief and in any profession or field that interacts with traumatized populations.
Bride and his colleagues are now working to get the principles adopted. For example, Bride presented them during the annual meeting of the Council on Social Work Education in early November, and he’ll soon be working with Georgia State’s School of Social Work faculty to build them into the curriculum. The goal is to disseminate the information to organizations and professional groups and get it integrated into schools of social work around the world.
“We’re giving individuals in our programs the tools, knowledge and training they need to be able to implement these STS principles in their professional and organizational lives,” Bride said. “And I’m just getting started. I have another 20 years of work to do.”
Distinguished University Professor of Social Work
School of Social Work
Brian Bride is internationally recognized for his research on secondary traumatic stress. He developed the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale, a widely used measure of secondary traumatic stress that has been translated into more than a dozen languages. His journal article, Secondary Traumatic Stress Among Social Workers, has been recognized as among the most influential articles in social work. Bride formerly served as director of Georgia State's School of Social Work (2014-2021) and as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Traumatology (2011-2018).