Diagnostic and Translational Utility of the Secondary Traumatic Stress Clinical Algorithm (STS-CA)

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Current tools available to assess secondary traumatic stress (STS) do not account for whether the symptoms are functionally related to indirect trauma, determine functional impairment caused by the STS symptoms, and/or consider the duration of the disturbance. This prevents delineation of various expressions of traumatic stress related to indirect trauma that may constitute the phenomenon of STS. The STS Clinical Algorithm (STS-CA) was developed to make these distinctions, so that interventions can be tailored to need. This study investigates the following: (1) the diagnostic concordance between the STS-CA findings and scores on the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS); (2) reasons for diagnostic discrepancies between the STS-CA and the STSS assessments. Three trained interviewers used the STS-CA to guide the determination of clinical outcome (N = 181) in a diverse group of helping professionals. There was 100% agreement between the CAPS and the STS-CA, and fair agreement (κ =.426, p = .000) between the STS-CA and the STSS. The STS-CA demonstrated more sensitivity in classifying positive cases, and specificity in delineating those with atypical cluster presentations or little to no functional impairment that prohibited a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis than the STSS. Effective treatment of STS requires proper identification and the delivery of protocols that are tailored to the unique ways that STS manifests. This study provides some insights into the utility of the STS-CA in guiding this process and creates STS categories to organize and classify intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8862605211044961
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
StateE-pub ahead of print - Sep 10 2021


  • secondary taumatic stress
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress Clinical Algorithm


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