Organizational Assessment of Secondary Traumatic Stress: Utilizing the Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organizational Assessment Tool to Facilitate Organizational Learning and Change

  • Ginny Sprang


This chapter describes an approach to the organizational assessment of secondary traumatic stress (STS) policies and practices that enables child welfare leaders to reliably evaluate how STS-informed their agency is, develop a roadmap for addressing challenges, and track progress toward organizational change in this area over time. These strategies facilitate the management of STS in the child welfare workforce, an essential component of trauma-informed care. Specifically discussed in this chapter is the Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organizational Assessment (STSI-OA) (Sprang et al., The secondary traumatic stress-informed organization assessment (STSI-OA) tool. Doi: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2866.1842, 2014), an evaluation tool that can be used by organizational representatives at any level to evaluate the degree to which their organization is STS-informed and able to respond to the impact of STS in the workplace. The tool describes what an STS-informed organization would look like, if all the activities were enacted fully, based on the current literature relevant to STS risk and protection, and principles of organizational learning and development (Dodgson, Org Stud 14(3):375–394, 1993; Crossan et al., Acad Manag Rev 24(3):522–537, 1999). Additionally, this chapter provides information about the reliability and validity of the STSI-OA, national norms, how the tool addresses cultural competence, and challenges to utilization and integration into child welfare settings using the National Implementation Research Network’s (NIRN) implementation framework.


Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organizational Assessment STSI-OA Organizational assessment Implementation 


  1. Argote, L. (2013). Organizational learning curves: An overview. In Organizational learning (pp. 1–29). Springer, New York, US.Google Scholar
  2. Argyris, C., & Schön, D. A. (1978). Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective (vol. 173). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  3. Bride, B. E., & Jones, J. L. (2006). Secondary traumatic stress in child welfare workers: Exploring the role of supervisory culture. Professional Development- Philadelphia, 9(2/3), 38–42.Google Scholar
  4. Cieslak, R., Shoji, K., Douglas, A., Melville, E., Luszczynska, A., & Benight, C. C. (2014). A meta-analysis of the relationship between job burnout and secondary traumatic stress among workers with indirect exposure to trauma. Psychological Services, 11(1), 75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cook, J. M., & Newman, E. (2014). A consensus statement on trauma mental health: The new haven competency conference process and major findings. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(4), 300–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Council on Social Work Education. (2012). Advancing social work practice in trauma. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.Google Scholar
  7. Crossan, M. M., Lane, H. W., & White, R. E. (1999). An organizational learning framework: From intuition to institution. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 522–537.Google Scholar
  8. Cunningham, M. (2003). Impact of trauma work on social work clinicians: Empirical findings. Social Work, 48(4), 451–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dodgson, M. (1993). Organizational learning: A review of some literatures. Organization Studies, 14(3), 375–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunphy, D. (1996). Organizational change in corporate settings. Human Relations, 49(5), 541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion fatigue as secondary traumatic stress disorder: An overview. In C. R. Figley (Ed.), Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized (pp. 1–20). New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  12. Gilbert, T. (2001). Reflective practice and clinical supervision: Meticulous rituals of the confessional. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 36(2), 199–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Glisson, C., & Green, P. (2011). Organizational climate, services, and outcomes in child welfare systems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(8), 582–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glisson, C., Dukes, D., & Green, P. (2006). The effects of the ARC organizational intervention on caseworker turnover, climate, and culture in children’s service systems. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30(8), 855–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glisson, C., Green, P., & Williams, N. J. (2012). Assessing the organizational social context (OSC) of child welfare systems: Implications for research and practice. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(9), 621–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kelly, M. J., & Sundet, P. (2007). Using 360 degree evaluation to improve clinical skill development by first line child protective services supervisors. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 4(3–4), 145–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. NCTSN Core Curriculum on Childhood Trauma Task Force. (2012). The 12 core concepts: Concepts for understanding traumatic stress responses in children and families, Core curriculum on childhood trauma. Los Angeles, CA/Durham, NC: UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress..Google Scholar
  18. Nelson-Gardell, D., & Harris, D. (2003). Childhood abuse history, secondary traumatic stress, and child welfare workers. Child Welfare, 82(1), 5–26.Google Scholar
  19. Pearlman, L. A., & Mac Ian, P. S. (1995). Vicarious traumatization: An empirical study of the effects of trauma work on trauma therapists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(6), 558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Senge, P. (1999). Interview with Peter Senge. The Gardener’s Leadership, downloaded April 12, 2016 from leadership/
  21. Showalter, S. E. (2010). Compassion fatigue: What is it? Why does it matter? Recognizing the symptoms, acknowledging the impact, developing the tools to prevent compassion fatigue, and strengthen the professional already suffering from the effects. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 27, 239–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sprang, G., Clark, J. J., & Whitt-Woosley, A. (2007). Compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction, and burnout: Factors impacting a professional’s quality of life. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 12(3), 259–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sprang, G., Craig, C., & Clark, J. (2011). Secondary traumatic stress and burnout in child welfare workers: A comparative analysis of occupational distress across professional groups. Child Welfare, 90(6), 149.Google Scholar
  24. Sprang, G., Ross, L., Blackshear, K., Miller, B., Vrable, C., Ham, J., Henry, J., & Caringi, J. (2014). The secondary traumatic stress-informed organization assessment (STSI-OA) tool. Doi:  10.13140/RG.2.1.2866.1842.
  25. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Trauma-informed care in behavioral health services, Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 57. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4801. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Google Scholar
  26. Van Hook, M. P., & Rothenberg, M. (2009). Quality of life and compassion satisfaction/fatigue and burnout in child welfare workers: A study of the child welfare workers in community based care organizations in central Florida. Social Work and Christianity, 36(1), 36.Google Scholar
  27. Webb, M. B., Dowd, K., Harden, B. J., Landsverk, J., & Testa, M. (Eds.). (2009). Child welfare and child well-being: New perspectives from the national survey of child and adolescent well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryCenter on Trauma and Children, University of Kentucky College of MedicineLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations