Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Secondary traumatic stress (STS) negatively impacts the health of clinical social workers, thus, impairing their ability to provide quality services. The symptoms and consequences of STS have been discussed for decades and the conversation continues because STS is a prevalent and pervasive problem that effects social workers, clients, and organizations. For as long as STS has been recognized as a problem, self-care has been identified as a solution. Yet, clinical social workers underutilize self-care strategies to safeguard their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

A systematic review of the literature review was conducted to explore, why self-care is underutilized among clinical social workers who are at risk for secondary traumatic stress. Unfortunately, the review found no studies that met inclusion criteria, specifically no studies focused on the self-care practices of clinical social workers were located. Therefore, a traditional literature review was utilized to extrapolate data on the most common barriers to engaging in self-care among social workers from various backgrounds.

While multiple barriers to engaging in self-care exist, the common denominator is often a lack of autonomy, self-directing freedom. Autonomous self-care, the freedom to engage in self-determining activities that assist the individual in safeguarding and enhancing their mental, physical, and emotional health, offers a means to overcome these barriers and increase the utilization of self-care mitigating the effects of secondary traumatic stress for clinical social workers. Thereby, improving the health of the individual social worker and their ability to provide quality services.

Available for download on Friday, May 17, 2024