Research Corner: Compassion Fatigue

As dedicated human service professionals, it’s very easy to forget that we also need care and attention. The old saying goes, “You can’t fill from an empty cup.” This particular article was a great read, especially when you are working with children suffering from trauma, medically-fragile children, bereavement, and other populations where the high level of stress can be passed on to us as therapists.

The link to this article is available by clicking the title below.

 

Compassion Fatigue: Psychotherapists’ Chronic Lack of Self Care”

Figley, Cr. (2002). Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58.

 

ABSTRACT/ARTICLE OVERVIEW

As therapists, we tend to try to see the world from our clients perspective. In doing so, it enables us to calibrate our services to best fit our clients and families needs. However, in our effort to view the world of suffering from our clients perspective, we also suffer.

Without adequate knowledge and execution on our part as therapists, we are putting ourselves and our clients at risk for clinical errors. Bringing awareness to self care practices and the importance of its’ practice can help prevent burnout, improve therapy sessions, improve the ability of compassionate therapists to sustain their emotional output, and heal some of the therapists own distressing memories to reduce traumatic stress symptoms of therapists.

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KEY DEFINITIONS

 

  • Compassion Fatigue –is also associated with secondary traumatic stress and is defined as “the natural consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other- the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person. “
  • Empathetic Ability- the aptitude of the therapist for noticing the pain of others
  • Empathetic Concern– motivation to respond to people in need
  • Exposure to Client- experiencing the emotional energy from working directly with the client
  • Empathetic Response– therapist efforts to reduce the suffering of the client through empathetic understanding
  • Compassion Stress- residue of emotional energy from the empathetic response to the client and the ongoing demand for action to relieve the suffering of a client
  • Sense of Achievement- a factor that lowers or prevents compassion stress as the therapist becomes satisfied with his or her efforts to help the client
  • Disengagement- a factor that lowers or prevents compassion stress as the therapist distances themselves from the ongoing suffering between session. Letting go of thoughts or feelings between sessions.
  • Prolonged Exposure– prolonged period of time that is required to support the needs of client. Breaks are an essential part of preventing compassion fatigue as they break prolonged exposure— days off/ vacation is an essential part of self care.
  • Traumatic Recollections – Therapists own traumatic memories and experiences that may be churned up within a session with particular clients or experiences.
  • Life Disruption – Unexpected changes in life responsibilities that can be dangerous when combined with compassion fatigue.

 

APPLICATION FOR PRACTICE

 

  • Understand Compassion Fatigue- The first step to preventing, managing, and treating compassion fatigue is the understand it and be aware of your own susceptibility.
  • Desensitization- Minimizing the degree of discomfort in scenarios that cause the therapist significant distress that affect his/her ability as a therapist. Goal is to substantially decrease unwanted emotional reactivity (not emotional response) linked to traumatic events.
  • Exposure dosage- Providing therapists with secondary stress symptoms with sufficient exposure  combined with relaxation in a balanced way.
  • Assessing and Enhancing Social Support- Increasing the therapists support system in number and variety so that he/she can have a persona separate from being a therapist. Assessing for toxic relationships within the therapists system is important as well.
  • Implementing a Self-Care Routine- the importance of this application cannot be stressed enough. Through experiencing counseling of your own, creating self-care habits, increasing stress management skills, and increasing self-soothing techniques are critical for preventing compassion fatigue.

 

This article is available through the link above! If you found this helpful, let me know in the comments! If you’d like to see more research overview of a certain topic, shoot me a message and let me know!

 

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