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Distressing calls at crisis lines and their relationship with secondary traumatic stress and compassion levels in the workers

Matkares, Roxane (2020) Distressing calls at crisis lines and their relationship with secondary traumatic stress and compassion levels in the workers.

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Full Text Status:Access to this publication is restricted
Embargo date:26 June 2022
Abstract:Background. Workers at crisis hotlines can immediately provide help for troubled individuals by listening to them. The callers stay anonymous, which has potentially distressing consequences for crisis line workers as they may be confronted with callers, who talk about harming other people or misuse the hotlines to sexually harass or manipulate the workers. This can drain the latter’s motivation to help. These types of distressing calls may trigger secondary traumatic stress (STS) in the workers, which might eventually affect the workers’ ability to be compassionate towards callers. Aim. The aims of this study were to determine 1) how high the STS and compassion levels among the workers are, 2) how the caller characteristics “violence towards others” and “inappropriate motivations” relate to STS levels, 3) whether demographic and work-related variables are associated with STS and compassion and 4) whether STS is associated with how compassionate the workers can be to the callers. Methods. A cross-sectional design study was conducted, measuring overall STS and compassion levels among a sample of n=586. Potentially distressing characteristics in a job demands questionnaire were combined into subscales addressing “violence towards others” and “inappropriate motivations”. Ratings of occurrence and stressfulness for these subscales were correlated with overall STS scores. Further, STS scores were correlated with compassion levels to test their relationship and associations between demographic and work-related factors and STS and compassion were explored. Results. Workers averagely had low STS levels (M=16.3) and rather high compassion levels (M=83.6). Encounters with callers having “inappropriate motivations” sometimes occurred, as opposed to confrontations with callers talking about engagement in “violence towards others”, which only seldomly occurred. Both types of encounters were considered as “(very) stressful” by only a minority (<20%) of the crisis line workers. STS was significantly associated with frequencies (rho=.17) and perceived stressfulness (rho=.20) of encounters with callers having “inappropriate motivations”, as well as with frequencies of confrontations with callers talking about “violence towards others” (rho=.09), but not with their perceived stressfulness. Levels of STS and compassion towards others were significantly but only weakly related to each other (rho=.10). Moreover, STS was significantly associated with older age (rho=.17), more work experience (rho=.11) and more working hours per week (rho=.14) and female participants had a higher average STS levels (m=16.5) than male ones. Conclusion. The studied workers’ STS levels were rather low and showed to be associated with callers having “inappropriate motivations” with regard to their frequencies of occurrence and perceived stressfulness. Encounters with callers talking about “violence towards others” were only found to be related to STS with respect to their occurrence. The sample’s compassion levels showed to be high and associated with STS as well. Furthermore, age, gender, years of working and working hours per week showed to be related to STS. Future research should implement a longitudinal study to clarify the development of the constructs and their relationships that were found in this study.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/81660
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