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Managing Vicarious Trauma: An Interview with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. We are human beings who can now present ourselves as whole people, with authenticity, purpose, and connection. Especially now, when therapists must develop a personal brand to market their practices.

To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

An Interview with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C is a clinical social worker specializing in complex trauma in her private practice outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She is also the host of Therapy Chat podcast. Laura offers individual and group consultation with clinicians who work with trauma focusing on addressing the impact of vicarious trauma, as well as creating a trauma-informed practice. Connect with Laura at

In this episode we talk about vicarious trauma:

  • Laura’s story
  • The definition of vicarious trauma

“The way I understand vicarious trauma and the way I explain it to people is when you begin to have a trauma response, because of something that happened to someone else.” – Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

  • Preparation to manage crisis intervention, trauma response work, and being on-call
  • Self-care, debriefing, supportive supervision
  • The cumulative effects of hearing about clients’ traumatic experiences
  • Over-work and negative self-concept due to the need to keep people safe
  • Decreasing feelings of competence and safety
  • Distinction between vicarious trauma, burnout, and countertransference
  • The fight or flight response related to secondary traumatic stress
  • Offsetting the negative impacts of vicarious trauma
  • Building community and connection
  • The limits of incident debriefing and the need for therapists to process their own stuff that is brought up by vicarious trauma
  • The importance of personal therapy, consultation
  • Critical Incident Debriefing
  • Taking care of yourself within a trauma-informed practice
  • The danger of ignoring vicarious trauma (PTSD symptoms)

“Self awareness is the most important thing for us. To be aware of what are we feeling, to stay connected with our emotions…If I’m grounded, and I’m aware of what I’m feeling, and I help myself…because I’m paying enough attention to what’s happening with myself throughout every session, and in between, and doing things for self care and mindfulness throughout the day, throughout the week.” – Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

  • Managing your emotions without shutting down or becoming disregulated

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together any resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Therapy Chat Podcast

Simple Self-Care for Therapists by Ashley Davis Bush

Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky

Laura Reagan’s Consultation

Laura Reagan’s On-Line Trauma Therapist Community (is now Trauma Therapist Network)

Laura’ Reagan’s In-Person Trauma Community (is now Trauma Therapist Network)

Trauma Therapist Network


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Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Therapist Safety

The Danger of Poor Self-Care

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Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more about Curt at

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more about Katie at

A Quick Note:

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Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

… 0:05
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:24
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:39
Welcome back to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And after our therapists safety episode that, as we were preparing for it, we really recognized just how emotional in reading the articles about the shooting in Yountville actually was. And we really came up with an idea of needing to address vicarious trauma and being able to talk about how that impacts therapists. And Katie had the brilliant idea to reach out to Laura Reagan, she is an LCSW-C and the host of the Therapy Chat podcast, and to have her come and join us for talking about vicarious trauma. So welcome to the show, Laura.

Laura Reagan 1:21
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.

Katie Vernoy 1:23
I’m super excited. Like I told you before we started recording, I have been appreciating your work from afar. I do work with trauma therapy in my therapy practice. And I love what you’re doing so so share with our audience who you are and what you’re putting out into the world.

Laura Reagan 1:37
Well, I appreciate your kind words about what I’m doing. And I’m a trauma therapist, I practice outside of Baltimore, kind of between Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland. And I work with people who have I just say complex trauma, you know, people who have trauma from childhood. Some people call it developmental trauma, chronic PTSD, complex PTSD, but it doesn’t even have to be PTSD. You know, when you experience trauma in childhood, that’s my favorite work. And I kind of specialize with sexual violence, because that’s sort of how I got my start. That’s not the only population I work with. And I’ve got my Therapy Chat podcast, I’ve been doing that about almost three years. That’s kind of evolving to where I talk mostly about trauma now. I used to be like, What should I talk about? Like, what do I always talk about: trauma?

Katie Vernoy 2:32
How did you get focused in trauma, you said that you that’s kind of where you got your start, but it seems like it really is resonant for you. It’s what, what works for you. How’d that happened?

Laura Reagan 2:42
I kind of went back to school when I was in my 20s. I didn’t finish college, you know, in the usual order. And when I was majoring in sociology with a goal to become a therapist, it was suggested to me that I should get some kind of internship or volunteer experience because I had no mental health experience. And so my local YWCA was looking for volunteers. And I assumed it would be because it just said volunteers wanted on their marquee. I assumed it would be something related to domestic violence, because I knew they did that kind of work there. But when I called they said, you’re going to be a volunteer on the sexual assault crisis hotline. Is that okay? And I was like, oh, sexual assault. I know what that is. And hotline, I Okay, I get that, you know, I was like, I didn’t know that existed. But sure. They’re like, Don’t worry, we’ll train you. So we had this 40 hour long training that was super intensive, and it was all about sexual violence, and how that’s a trauma and how people react to trauma and how trauma shapes the developing brain. And I was fascinated. I had no idea about all this. And of course, you know, everyone knows people who’ve been sexually assaulted, because it’s very common. At that time, this was in 2002, Bruce Perry was doing his Child Trauma Academy online, it was like, watch all these videos about the effects of trauma on the developing brain, all for free. Before he started doing his model, you know, the, I think it’s a neurosequential model. He was just putting this all out for free, just so people would understand. And I’ve always been like, okay, so you feel this way. But why? What’s causing it? It’s not just happening. It’s something’s causing it. And so this totally fit into the way I understood the world. And so I’ve been very lucky to kind of start my work in mental health with a perspective of the impact of trauma before I ever had any formal mental health education in grad school, because that wasn’t really focused in grad school, but I already had that background. So that’s just the lens through which I saw everything I learned.

Laura Reagan 2:42
In helping our audience understand vicarious trauma. Can you talk a little bit about what that is?

Laura Reagan 4:58
Sure. So The way I understand vicarious trauma and the way I explaine it to people is, basically, when you are affected by traumatic events, it didn’t happen to you, but it happened to someone and you’re hearing about it or you’re seeing it. So vicarious trauma, as a therapist could be that you’re hearing your clients stories, and you have a trauma response, because of how traumatic their story is. Or it can be something horrifying that happens through your work as a therapist or, you know, through your life in other ways, it doesn’t happen directly to you, that you really have like firsthand knowledge of without having experienced it. And so I mean, you know, that’s kind of a broad definition. But that’s how I see when you begin to have a trauma response, because of something that happened to someone else.

Katie Vernoy 5:52
I had a similar experience. When I graduated from undergrad, I used my psychology degree kind of in the background, because I was going to be an actor, you know, I was a theater major. But I was working in a group home with kids who had been abused and neglected. And that’s why they’d been removed. And I found that I was shutting down, I was having a lot of responses. And unlike you, we were we were trained on how to restrain kids on how to, you know, interview kids. But we weren’t really taught about the impacts of trauma. But I wonder, you know, in your when you were on those crisis hotlines, were you experiencing vicarious trauma? Were they talking about it, because it feels like that back then they weren’t talking about vicarious trauma?

Laura Reagan 6:33
Well, actually, so when I first called, they told me about the hotline, but they also had hospital responder/crisis intervention, volunteer positions. So part of what we did was to answer the 24 hour hotline, and part of what we did was to go to a hospital or a special clinic where they did forensic exams, for people just following sexual assault, and they had to be presenting to that place to get the forensic exam at that time, it had to be done within 72 hours after the event. So they were still in crisis, when we would meet them, even if it had had happened the day before. One aspect of it was that we were on call, so you are out to dinner, or whatever, phone rings, drop everything, you gotta go. And you know, somebody, something really bad happened to someone, and you gotta go help right now. So even that, you know, when you’re doing crisis intervention work, there’s that effect of every time the phone rings, you’re like, Oh, my God, what now you know. And same with the hotline, you have to be prepared to steel yourself, where you don’t know what that person is saying. When you answer the phone, and you have to stay calm, you have to be really compassionate and also know the resources to refer them to or give them some crisis intervention counseling. So yes, as part of our wonderful 40 hour training, I have to say, in this grassroots organization, I was so fortunate, we had a lot of training about that this work is impactful to us. They didn’t call it vicarious trauma. But they talked about self care. And it was, it was very much structured as an environment where it was extremely important for all the volunteers and staff to feel supported. And so they would debrief with us, they wanted to know how we were feeling, you know, what was the part about that, that upset you the most? Or do you feel okay to, you know, take another call tonight? Or do you need to, like, just rest and someone else can take over? Stuff like that. So even though they didn’t name it vicarious trauma, the focus was extremely supportive. And I’m so glad I had that first experience that way.

Katie Vernoy 8:39
That’s so cool. I think that’s pretty unique. Did you end up still experiencing vicarious trauma? Did that protect against vicarious trauma? Or would did it still come up for you?

Laura Reagan 8:49
It helped a lot, but it did still come up for me. I ended up volunteering there for a year and a half. I loved it so much. I wanted to work there. And so after being there for a year and a half, I started working there full time. And at the time, when I was working there full time I was in school full time, I had kids who were like three and five. And my husband was in school full time. And I was working there full time. So it was a lot. And as staff we were on call to backup the volunteers all the time. Then we kind of had a system where the you know, one person would be on call for a week at a time and the director back that person up, but you know, if a volunteer went on the case, and they got in over their head in some way they couldn’t handle it, we would have to go and so we would, for that whole week, we’d have to be on call. So, after a while that does take a toll. Even though it was still a very supportive environment it just begins to wear you down and the kind of the cumulative effect of hearing and seeing story after story. You know, seeing people in one of the worst moments of their life is just following a traumatic event, hearing all of the horrible things that people do to each other that are so cruel and just sometimes unbelievable, you know, I mean, I always believed it. But it’s you wouldn’t imagine that people would do these kinds of things to other people. And it just, it wears you down. So yeah, I did experience some vicarious trauma and there was in particular, I mean, I can remember it so easily right now talking about and this was probably was easily 13 years ago or more. One particular case, when I responded to the hospital, the physical injuries that the person had, the victim in the case had were more horrific than what you would normally see. That did impact me where I first had the response of how horrifying it was, you know, like, I was like seeing images, and I kind of had a hard time getting them out of my head. I had a very supportive supervisor. So she was like every case, she was there to hear what happened to hear how I was feeling about it. And so it’s kind of like after the first interaction with that person who had been traumatized that way, the horrifying images didn’t last, they kind of dissipated after a couple of days. But what ended up happening that was more insidious, and this is how I think vicarious trauma can really sneak up on us is that I felt like, I couldn’t take any time off. I had to be there, if I wasn’t there, like something bad was going to happen, like I needed to work more and more and more and more, you know. And at the same time, I felt like I was like failing everyone and not living up to what I was all my responsibilities. And just, you know, so I found that it didn’t impact me the way I expected. But I just got really overwhelmed in my whole life that, you know, as a mother, as a wife, as a worker, as a crisis counselor, as a student, I just felt in all of those arenas, I was failing at all of them. And so that was like an impact that I wouldn’t have expected, you know.

… 12:00
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Curt Widhalm 12:57
For people who haven’t experienced vicarious trauma or been around people who do or are interested in working in trauma work and haven’t gone through some of these deeper trainings, there’s a noticeable qualitative difference between vicarious trauma, burnout, countertransference. And I think that it’s a it’s a very fine line that you’re referring to here. How do you see those separate?

Laura Reagan 13:21
We may have some difference in perspective. So I’m interested in hearing what you guys say too. But for me, countertransference is when something that’s happening in the therapeutic process triggers some relationship dynamic that is from your own life, and you are reacting to it as if it’s that. Which can be a factor in vicarious trauma. But it’s not the whole thing. Burnout, I see as long term cumulative effect of multiple experiences of vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress to where you begin to become personally depressed. Or it can it sort of like to me it sort of bleeds together, it can express as PTSD. Or it can be just like a numbing to everything to where you hate going to work. You don’t see the point anymore. And that was one of the things that came up for me in this vicarious trauma experience. I was like, What’s the point? As a drop of water in the ocean, it’s my impact is not meaningful. It’s too small. I can’t do enough. The problem is so big. But I think one of the differences between vicarious trauma and burnout is that I was able to come back from that and believe, again, that what I do does make a difference. Where, you know, and I only felt that way for like, a few days instead of my whole worldview changed and I no longer believed that there was any purpose in the work I was doing. So that was where of the impact of the support from my supervisor who demanded she didn’t just insist she basically told me: Go home. Take some time off. Don’t come back here. Do not worry, like, oh, no, she hates me, she thinks I’m doing a terrible job. She was like, No, you need rest, it’s okay to rest. I was like…

Katie Vernoy 15:10
I love that. Because I think a lot of times supervisors will look at the crisis and be like, we’ve got to fill out the paperwork, and you got to do this, and we got to get back on it. And now we’re derailed on productivity or, you know, there can be really bad responses that supervisors have. And I think that’s actually in my opinion, what can lead to burnout is that it’s not just the vicarious trauma and just in quotes, but it’s, it’s also the the feeling that you can’t manage everything in your work. I mean, burnout can be completely unrelated to vicarious trauma, it can certainly happen as a result of it, but I think it it oftentimes will be because of all the other pieces that are out of our control, and the feelings of of incompetence, or that kind of stuff. For me, I think I think we’re pretty similar on our distinctions. But but one thing that came up while you’re talking is about the supervisors. And, and I think my one of my experiences of vicarious trauma was actually as a supervisor, and it’s, is it called vicarious vicarious trauma. I was, I was listening to stories of lots of traumatic experiences from my supervisees, and had these visceral visions and responses that I hadn’t seen in person or that kind of stuff. And I think, just, you know, I guess just a side note, it’s important to recognize at any time that you’re hearing these stories, whether they’re firsthand, secondhand, thirdhand, depending on how visceral you viscerally you take it in or how much you kind of feel into the experience, vicarious trauma can happen because it kicks up our own fight or flight responses, it kicks up our own, you know, reactions and trauma responses. And so I think it’s, it can be really tough. So it’s so great that your supervisor sent you home. It sounds like you had some, some really great training and support all the way through to make sure that you you were able to offset that. What are some of the other ways that you would personally recommend to prevent vicarious trauma?

Laura Reagan 17:01
I agree with what you said about supervisors. And I, as I was talking about it, I was thinking, I know my supervisor didn’t really have anyone to hold it for her. And, you know, I wonder how that impacted her. And I hope that, you know, she took care of what she needed, as well. But I think the things that offset the harmful effects of vicarious trauma because I don’t think you can fully prevent it. You can prevent the impact from being highly detrimental to yourself. It’s, you know, all the things that we do for wellness, like getting enough sleep, practicing good boundaries, trying to have a balance between your work life and your personal life, doing things that bring joy, having a sense of meaning and purpose in your life, whether it’s in your work, which I hope, if we’re therapists, that we do have a sense of meaning and purpose in what we’re doing, or else, hopefully, we say, I guess it’s time to go in another direction. But or, you know, if I don’t have a sense of meaning and purpose anymore, why don’t I and what can I do to get that back? But also, you can have that in other aspects of your life, like perhaps, you know, you do other things that you find meaningful, raising children, you know, dance, all the things that can bring you joy, acting in theatre productions, snging, volunteering, being part of a faith community. One of the things that I think is really important, especially if you’re in private practice, but in agency work to, and pretty much any setting as a therapist is a sense of community, you know, with your colleagues, with your, your neighbors, you know, being a part of other communities that aren’t work related and communities that are work related. Because I hear often from therapists who are in private practice how isolating it feels. I know for me, it didn’t always feel like I could express my feelings about the things that I didn’t like about my work. Like if I said those things out loud, I would be judged or something or somehow shameful.

Curt Widhalm 19:17
I completely agree with you. And one of my very first experiences with this and what really sparks this story for me now is just about that isolation factor. And my first experience really witnessing vicarious trauma is there was a train accident in my community that several people died in, but our local therapist chapter had a critical incident team that was actually called out to be responders, to survivors, to family members who were trying to find their loved ones. And our service chapter had a membership meeting the next day and one of the people who had been out responding to the train site got up to speak about her experience of being on this team. And while she was speaking, you could see just kind of the glaze over her eyes and the ramble that just kept going. And it was very palpable of what she was experiencing and actually necessitated a response group for first responders to be able to talk about things with each other, within the first 24 hours after responding. I know that in a lot of different communities that respond in very high stress situations, whether this is law enforcement officials, or paramedics or even first responders in these types of situations that it can become very, very easily, very, very easy to isolate, and to only want to talk with people who, quote unquote, understand. And as much as we as therapists try to understand everybody’s positions, we’re not immune from that even in separating ourselves out from each other in. You don’t know what it’s like to go into these situations.

Laura Reagan 21:04
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think, like, what you said about having that conversation immediately after, is very important. But I think also a limitation that I hear often with people who do like mobile crisis and first responders is that they may have in the best case scenario, they have someone they can debrief with after a horrific, horrific thing that they are helping with. But they don’t get to talk about the impact of their childhood where their brother was having problems with substance abuse throughout his teen years, and then died of an overdose when he was in his 20s. And like, they don’t get to talk about that. It’s only about that specific thing. But yeah, that kind of comes up. You know, you don’t really get to pick and choose which traumas get triggered by the horrific things that you see and experience.

Katie Vernoy 22:03
I think that’s really, really important to talk about a little bit more. Because I think oftentimes, we get so I guess, event focused that people are like, Let’s manage it now. And I was even kind of reflecting on when someone does a debrief right in the moment, need for that there’s some benefit to that. But but unless you’ve kind of fully resolved it, and you have tied your own stuff and processed your own stuff related to it, the ripples keep going. And so being able to have more of a longer standing ability to process these things, especially if you’re a trauma therapist, or you’re, you know, first responder or you’re doing any kind of crisis response that you, you have the mechanism to really reflect on how it’s impacting you as a whole human being. I know, that’s why I stay in therapy, because it’s critical for me to make sure I keep you know, keep that keep aware of that and make sure I’m processing my own stuff.

Laura Reagan 22:59
Yeah, me too. So therapy, your own personal therapy, you’re continuing with supervision and consultation, those are really important factors. And so, you know, and if all of your friends are therapists, and when you go out with your friends to blow off some steam, all you do is talk about work. That’s nice. But if those are the only outlets you have, you’re basically like you’re working 24/7.

Katie Vernoy 23:29
Yeah, that’s not that’s not sufficient.

Laura Reagan 23:32
Right. And then you may have friends who you like spending time with and you know they don’t get it about this stuff, and they don’t understand what you do. And then sometimes that can feel isolating too, because you are having your bubbling over with these feelings of wanting to say this happened. And somebody went through that and you know, and which is a clue that you need somebody to talk to, because that’s what trauma does is its ’emergency emergency,’ you feel like ‘Red Alert, Red Alert,’ I need to let somebody know,

Curt Widhalm 24:03
We mentioned at the beginning of the episode about the reactions that Katie and I had to the Yountville shooting. And this is not even necessarily things that you need to be directly involved in, in order to experience. That this can be something like Katie, in my experience, just as it being part of the therapists community that was greatly affected by that. I noticed a lot of effects around this. I’m pretty involved in the running community here in Los Angeles that after the Boston Marathon bombings that I had run a critical incident debriefing group for people who were there, but I had also received a number of requests from people in the running community that wanted to experience some sort of debriefing even though they were on the other side of the country, but just being tied into a community can really create opportunities for this too. And really, what I’m hearing from Laura in a lot of this is that this takes a lot of introspection to be able to recognize where your limits are, know when you’re approaching them. And to have the right outlets, whether it’s social, whether it’s something that’s a positive distraction, if it’s friends, whether it’s therapy, in order to take care of yourself, and to really be able to put yourself into a position where you can come back and continue to do the best work that you can.

Katie Vernoy 25:25
I so agree.

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Katie Vernoy 26:37
I think I’ve got another question for you, Laura, because I it was bubbling up for me is that you interact with a lot of trauma therapists, You’ve interact with a lot of people who have trauma. When vicarious trauma goes unchecked when you don’t do the things that Curt was talking about the self care and the stuff we were talking about. What does vicarious trauma look like unchecked? And what are the what are the damage? What damage can that do to yourself to the clients you work with? With that kind of stuff? Like what happens when you don’t take care of your own vicarious trauma?

Laura Reagan 27:13
Yeah, well, it can develop into a more PTSD type response. Basically, you guys probably know and most people listening, if they know about trauma may have heard before that the effects of trauma are either hyper arousal, or hypo arousal or a combination. So hyper arousal, meaning you’re always alert, on guard, you’re feeling super anxious, unsafe, panicky, and hypo arousal is numb, depressed, disconnected from your feelings. And if you generally stay in one or the other of those states, you may be impacted by vicarious trauma. And I don’t think it has to be that you experienced one horrifying thing, or something as clearly traumatic to everyone as a bombing or a shooting. But, you know, if I see six clients a day, and they’ve all experienced childhood abuse, and they’re talking about that pain, through their sessions, and I know their stories, then I have to do something with that. I have to attend to the impact that that had on me in that day. So whether it’s to create some kind of art, do some journaling, or do something that expresses and releases what I’m holding from having those sessions with them. Because, you know, I want to be fully available to myself and to them, when they come back the next week, and to the people who come the next day with their stories, and not filled to the brim and overwhelmed with the sadness of, you know, their pain. They want to know that I can hold what they need to share without it being too much for me, because then that just can reenact for them. How you know, nobody was really there for them. Nobody, you know, seemed to understand or care what they were going through.

Katie Vernoy 29:25
I know I’ve experienced with some of my clients, they’ve talked about previous therapists being emotionally dysregulated by their trauma. And I think that’s really a huge risk if you’re not taking care of this.

Curt Widhalm 29:34
And to the other end of this is that you don’t want to go into it wanting to be so strong for your clients that you’re neglected your own needs too.

Laura Reagan 29:42
Totally, exactly. Being dysregulated is you can’t manage the distress that you feel. Having an appropriate emotional response to what they’re talking about. Maybe you feel sad about what they’re talking about. That doesn’t mean you’re dysregulated, that means that you’re reacting normally, but you don’t want to be where your feeling of sadness becomes the focus. And the clients then trying to make you feel better, you know?

Katie Vernoy 30:12

Laura Reagan 30:13
But I mean, I think you know, and Curt, you kind of you talked about this about being introspective. Self awareness is the most important thing for us. To be aware of what are we feeling, to stay connected with our emotions. I used to think that you’re supposed to have no emotions. And if you feel something about what the client is telling you, then you’re weak, and you’re not going to be a good therapist. You’re supposed to be strong, be strong. So now I realize that if I’m grounded, and I’m aware of what I’m feeling, and I help myself, you know, get regulated, again, if I feel a little dysregulated, because I’m paying enough attention to what’s happening with myself throughout every session, and in between, and doing things for self care and mindfulness throughout the day, throughout the week, you know, in practices that are just a normal part of my routine. Not that I have it all figured out. But this is what I try to do. Then I’m better able to stay regulated, and get regulated again. But if I go out of my window of tolerance a little bit, or I get to the edge too far, that self awareness is crucial. We can’t just like numbly walk through our day.

Curt Widhalm 31:26
And this really goes back to and we talked about this in our previous episode about self care is that really being active in your self care seems to be such a huge part of this. This isn’t just showing up at home and flipping on Netflix and kind of tuning out for a couple of hours. But really attuning to yourself in being able to really take care of you as the whole person, not just as you as the therapist and showing up at your job the next day. Do you have any other resources that you like to share when it comes to therapists working with vicarious trauma?

Laura Reagan 32:00
Yes, I do. I have two books that I love to recommend for therapists. One is called “Simple Self-Care for Therapists” by Ashley Davis Bush, who is a therapist and she talks about mindfulness practices and visualizations and Reiki things and all kinds of different ways that you can, from when you wake up till when you go to bed, little rituals that you can implement to help address self care. So it’s basically from when you get up before you leave your house. When you get to your office, before you meet with your first client. After that session, before the next session, after that session, you know, all day, when you leave your office for the day, when you get home, before you go to bed, you know, it’s you can do it that much. And she gives all these examples and they’re things that take 30 seconds or less to do.

Katie Vernoy 32:55
That’s great.

Laura Reagan 32:56
And she explains how they work and everything. It’s a you could open up the book at any point and just implement one of the things in there as a start. It’s you know, if you’re so overwhelmed, you don’t even have to read the whole book. And then the other book I love recommending is called “Trauma Stewardship” by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, which is, I think it’s a beautiful book for anyone who is in a helping profession, but especially if you feel like you’ve lost that sense of purpose in the work it, it really helps you kind of get back to center I think. It talks about how we’re all connected and how, you know, the work we’re doing is part of humanity and all the different animal welfare and environmental work and helping professions like being a therapist, being a nurse, doctor, police officer, you know, all the things that people do, are all woven together. And part of making the world a better place. It’s very hopeful and inspiring. And she also has like a framework you can use.

Katie Vernoy 34:02
I love that. That’s great. I’m definitely going to check that one out. It’s right up my alley. I talk about this stuff all the time. So we’ll make sure to put those books in the show notes. Do you support other therapists in dealing with working with trauma?

Laura Reagan 34:16
I do. Thanks for asking. I have consultation groups that I do both online and in person. Because I noticed that in the Facebook groups, therapists are often falling over with needing to talk to somebody and not necessarily, of course, Facebook’s not an appropriate place to do it. So I was like we need consult groups where people who aren’t close geographically can can meet and connect and, you know, talk about our work and share resources and give them ome support but I also do one on one consultation with therapists who want to be more trauma informed because I think having a trauma informed practice helps to mitigate the effects of vicarious trauma too. Because you, you understand trauma are part of being trauma informed is to take care of you.

Curt Widhalm 35:08
So our guest today is Laura Reagan. She’s an LCSW-C in the Baltimore Maryland area. Laura, what’s your website for people who want to find you?

Laura Reagan 35:17
The easiest website is That goes to my therapy website as well as my podcast. But, you know, is there’s a lot of possibility for misspellings in that one. So.

Curt Widhalm 35:35
And we’ll include notes to both of those in our show notes. You can find our show notes on our website, And check out all of the wonderful projects that Katie and I are working on the conferences, the workshops, all of that kind of stuff. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy And Laura Reagan.

… 35:54
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