College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Winter 3-19-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Megan Greeson, PhD

Second Advisor

Christopher Keys, PhD

Third Advisor

Molly Brown, PhD


Rape crisis centers (RCCs) rely on counselors and victim advocates to provide support to survivors of sexual assault via crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling, case management, and referrals. As a result of their direct service work, sexual assault service providers are frequently exposed to vicarious trauma. This may inhibit both service provision and provider well-being. Not all impacts of engaging in trauma work are negative, however; positive benefits have also been documented from engaging in trauma work. One such benefit is vicarious posttraumatic growth, which is understood as the positive psychological transformation undergone by trauma workers as a result of their repeated engagement with their clients’ trauma (Arnold et al., 2005). Limited research exists on factors associated with vicarious posttraumatic growth among sexual assault service providers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine factors related to vicarious posttraumatic growth among sexual assault service providers. More specifically, this study examined how supervision, peer support, organizational support, trauma-specific education, and exposure to client growth predict vicarious posttraumatic growth in RCC sexual assault service providers. Additionally, this study also aimed to explore the nature of the relationship between vicarious posttraumatic growth and vicarious traumatization. In the first linear regression model, perceptions of organizational support significantly predicted providers’ experiences of VPTG, but other variables (i.e., perceptions of supervision, peer support, organizational support, trauma-specific training) did not significantly predict VPTG. In the second multiple linear regression model, which examined exposure to client growth, length of time in role significantly predicted a change in VPTG. A Pearson product-moment correlation did not reveal the relationship between VPTG and VT to be significant, but findings suggest the relationship may be curvilinear. In this case, additional analyses may be considered. By examining factors associated with vicarious posttraumatic growth and exploring the relationship with vicarious traumatization, this study sought to increase knowledge about how RCCs may help facilitate the positive effects of trauma work. Findings suggest that providers’ feelings of organizational support (i.e., that they are valued and respected by their broader organization) may be associated with more positive changes as a result of their work. As such, organizations may consider strategies to communicate their appreciation of staff and volunteers to potentially promote provider longevity, well-being, and overall service provision. Other considerations for future research in this area, such as expanding and adapting strategies for measuring key variables, are discussed.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons