“Hurtful Gifts? Trauma and Growth Transmission Among Local Clinicians in Post-earthquake Haiti”


Jaimes A, Hassan G, Rousseau C. (2019). Hurtful Gifts? Trauma and Growth Transmission Among Local Clinicians in Post-earthquake Haiti. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 32: 186-195.


Although working with trauma survivors can be a source of both deleterious and positive transformations in mental health professionals, little is known about the experience of clinicians in shared traumatic contexts, particularly in the Global South, where most humanitarian crises occur. In collective disasters or armed conflicts, the personal and professional experiences of mental health staff inform each other, situating the clinical space at the intersection between singular and collective spheres. Drawing on an intersubjective and socioecological perspective, this qualitative study explored the ways in which working in a shared traumatic context affected mental health and psychosocial staff in postearthquake Haiti. We interviewed 22 local mental health workers in the capital, Port-au-Prince, 2.5 years after the 2010 disaster. We coded and thematically analyzed interviews using an iterative process, based on grounded theory principles. Thematic analysis uncovered four dynamic poles in clinicians’ narratives: balancing duty and desire to help, experiencing fragility and strength, negotiating separation and connection, and sharing hurt and hope. Our findings suggest clinicians considered their work mainly as a source of strength in the face of adversity, whereas experiences of trauma and growth transmissions were mutual and intimately intertwined. We discuss the complexities of clinical work in shared traumatic settings as well as the dynamic interplay between professionals’ experiences of suffering and growth. We conclude with recommendations on ways to involve local mental health clinicians in postdisaster contexts while addressing the special needs that they may have to process their own trauma.