Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Kenneth Logan, PsyD

Second Advisor

Luann Foster, PsyD

Third Advisor

Mary Peterson, PhD


There is comprehensive literature regarding vicarious traumatization in mental health providers. Previous research identifies underlying mental health conditions and limited clinical exposure as increased risk factors for vicarious traumatization. Graduate student mental health has recently been described as a significant public health problem. Although some research exists on the impact of high-acuity clinical work on psychology graduate students, there has been limited attention on the physical impact of vicarious traumatization. The current study assessed the relationship between graduate trainees’ subjective anxiety levels and heart rate variability in response to high-acuity client work. Results indicated that doctoral trainees with high levels of trait anxiety started and ended clinical interactions with more subjective anxiety than trainees with low trait anxiety. This impact was reflected in restricted heart rate variability in the sleep cycle following high-acuity clinical work. Findings of subjective and physiological stress levels were not mitigated by years of experience in crisis work. Evidence-based recommendations are provided for graduate student trainees and academic institutions to identify and mitigate vicarious traumatization.

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Psychology Commons