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WEBINAR | Witnessing: Understanding the Effects of Overexposure to Stories of Trauma and What to Do About It (Part 1 of 2)


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Witnessing: Understanding the Effects of Overexposure to Stories of Trauma and What to Do About It

DATE: October 23, 2019 @ 10am (PST) / 1pm (EST)


Clinicians, therapists, and social workers are just a few examples of providers exposed to traumatic stories in their daily work. In the course of doing their jobs, these helpers are often in the position of witness. Witnesses experience distress similar to what victims experience. Sometimes the distress comes from the stories clients tell them or directly observing their clients in interactions. Sometimes the distress comes from the people who administer the policies and procedures that affect clients. Often the distress derives from both sources. “Helpers” or providers may also have their own challenging histories. Current situations may trigger difficult historical moments, making it harder for providers to cope with contemporary stress.

This webinar provides an overview of empathic stress, moral injury, and microaggressions, and describes coping strategies for both providers and clients. Kaethe Weingarten, PhD, discusses the role of clinicians, therapists, social workers, and other “witnesses” and “helpers” and the impact that witnessing has on the behavioral health of the witness. In the second half of the webinar we look at sources of resilience and what Dr. Weingarten calls “reasonable hope.” There is time for Q&A throughout the webinar.

Learning Objectives
Participants will be able to:

  • Describe the four witness positions and daily sources of distress.
  • Understand strategies to cope with their own distress while helping people who lived through traumatic experiences.
  • Identify sources of resilience and reasonable hope in their own lives.


Michael Parchman
Michael Parchman, MD, MPH
Senior Investigator Michael Parchman, MD, MPH, is a nationally recognized scholar in chronic illness care research at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute’s MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation. A family practitioner and health services researcher, Dr. Parchman previously served as the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Practice-Based Research Network Initiative and senior advisor for primary care. 
Dr. Parchman’s research focuses on using complexity science to explore how diverse health care teams can work together to achieve high-quality care. He leads Healthy Hearts Northwest, a three-year project for primary care practices in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho that is funded as part of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)’s EvidenceNOW initiative. The project aims to help practices improve their patients’ cardiovascular health by expanding their existing quality improvement capacity.
Learning Objectives:  
Participants will be able to describe current challenges to managing opioid medications for individuals with chronic pain in a primary care setting. 
Participants will examine the six building blocks needed to build a quality improvement roadmaps to help primary care teams become effective.
Participants will identify at least 2 tools or strategies that can be applied in a primary care setting to address opioid use for long-term pain management.


Kaethe Weingarten, PhD
Kaethe Weingarten, PhD, is the founder and director of The Witnessing Project, a nonprofit organization that consults to individuals, families, and communities locally, nationally, and internationally to transform passive witnessing of violence and violation into effective action. She was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology for the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry from 1981-2017 and a faculty member of the Family Institute of Cambridge where she founded and directed the Program in Families, Trauma and Resilience. She directs the American Family Therapy Academy’s (AFTA) Witness to Witness Program, a project pairing AFTA members with providers overexposed to stories of trauma. (Kaethe is pronounced Kay-tah.)

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