Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Martina Vasil


Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is a phenomenon that affects individuals in helping professions, including educators. STS is a trauma disorder and results from one’s exposure to others experiencing trauma or who have experienced trauma. STS can affect physical health, well-being, and professional performance. Due to the profound effects of STS, there is a need for continued research to clarify this phenomenon in educators, specifically music educators. Furthermore, there is a need for research on STS in women due to women’s unique interactions with trauma and the potential for them to develop trauma disorders. At the time of this study, there were no existent empirical studies on STS and women music educators.

Therefore, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the lived experience of women music educators with STS. A primary goal was understanding how secondary traumatic stress affected women music educators’ personal and professional lives. A secondary goal was understanding how individual and environmental factors influenced women music educators’ lived experiences with STS. The primary research question for this study was, What is the lived experience of women music educators with secondary traumatic stress? This study had two subquestions: 1) What factors contribute to women music educators’ lived experience with secondary traumatic stress?; 2) How does secondary traumatic stress affect women music educators’ professional lives?

This study explored the emergence of STS in nine women educators from varying teaching backgrounds and areas of musical expertise. Through transcendental phenomenological data analysis, the essence of secondary traumatic stress was revealed. STS in women music educators is the embodiment of deep care, concern, and empathy toward students and the consequential effects from providing this care—a feeling of weight and responsibility for students’ safety, emotions, and well-being and effects on teachers’ physical and mental health, emotional state, and career path. STS has numerous negative implications for educators; nevertheless, there may be positive outcomes from STS, such as vicarious post-traumatic growth (VPTG).

Several implications for K–12 and postsecondary music education emerged from the findings of this study. First, there is a need for changes in educational policies and classroom practices in K–12 music education, including advocacy for support and resources in schools affected by trauma, support for teachers at risk for STS, and improvements to training on trauma and trauma-informed practices. Additionally, postsecondary music teacher education programs must change to potentially combat STS's development in preservice teachers. Postsecondary institutions need to enact curricular changes and provide preservice teachers’ clinical experiences with the necessary support and expertise to be prepared to work with students affected by trauma. Finally, postsecondary institutions must prioritize preservice teachers’ well-being and mental health.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)