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Exposure to others’ trauma is toxic. This is known as ‘vicarious trauma’ and it’s what happens to people who hear harrowing stories as part of their work.
User researchers are often faced with situations where they need to conduct repeated in-depth interviews with people who’ve had traumatic experiences and who have developed PSTD, mental health issues, chronic illness, addiction, self-harm, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. We believe this repeated exposure puts the psychological safety of user researchers at risk. Training to equip people with the right skills and confidence to prepare for and handle these situations is often absent from user research training.
In this talk, Jane and Janice will highlight the dangers of working with complex needs and share insights on how user researchers can protect themselves from burnout and vicarious trauma.
Jane Reid is an experienced freelance user researcher who specializes in conducting research across a range of complex areas including homelessness, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, intergenerational unemployment, and, when and what to ask about sex and/or gender in form design. Prior to freelancing, she was a civil servant for over 25 years in the UK Government. Having recently dedicated one lunchtime a week to helping and advising user researchers in the public sector, she found that she was being asked more questions about how to cope with being a user researcher than the craft itself.
Recognizing that she was not qualified to give advice in this area, she turned to trauma counsellor Janice Hannaway for advice. On International Women’s Day in 2019, they decided to design a ‘Self-care in User Research’ training course, which brings together therapeutic and practical user research skills to help other researchers stay safe and happy in the profession they love. LinkedIn; Twitter: @janereid73
Janice Hannaway has been a specialist in the area of trauma and complex needs for over 25 years working with survivors to empower them to overcome traumatic experiences such as domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse and drug addiction. She recently made the move into user research and is currently a lead user researcher at the UK Cabinet Office. She continues to practice as an accredited psychodynamic therapist, coach and clinical supervisor. Janice is also a certified Emotional Intelligence Assessor (EQ-i 2.0 & EQ360).
As a result of a shared passion for helping people, she recently started a new user research training company with her friend and user researcher, Jane Reid. Bringing together their experience and expertise of working in the field of complex needs and trauma, they fully understand the effects of repeated exposure to challenging situations and stories and how it can manifest into burnout and vicarious trauma. Their shared passion for self-care was the catalyst for their decision to design a Self-care in User Research training course. LinkedIn; Twitter:@jahconsultancy
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