The Compassion Fatigue Solutions Blog

Addressing Compassion Fatigue: An Ethical Mandate

“Working with clients in trauma can impact lawyers who represent children in the child welfare system, both personally and professionally.  Prolonged or repeated exposure to the abuse and neglect suffered by child victims can result in an acute form of burnout called compassion fatigue.  However, child lawyers, unlike other helping professionals, rarely have language for this loss of capacity nor support systems in place to combat it.  Large caseloads, inadequate resources and systems that sometimes re-victimize instead of rehabilitate, leave practitioners feeling ineffective, incompetent and lacking compassion. These conditions compromise the child lawyer’s ethical duty to provide competent representation. Speakers focus on preventative and responsive strategies for solo practitioners, agency lawyers and leaders who manage child lawyers, as well as the ethical implications of compassion fatigue on child representation.” – American Bar Association

Trenny Stovall, Esq., DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center, Decatur, GA (moderator)
Alexandra Dolan, MSS, LSW, Support Center for Child Advocates, Philadelphia, PA
Josh Spitalnick, PhD, ABPP, Adjunct Asst. Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University SOM, Atlanta, GA
Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC., Co-Executive Director, TEND, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Danielle Lynch, Esq.,  Supervising Attorney. DeKalb Child Advocacy Center, Decatur, GA

To listen in, click here: 

American Bar Association Documents

“Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Ottawa Shooting: What happens when we all go back to our regular lives?”

Today, October 22nd, marks the 1-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. As we honour and remember Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, we also pay tribute to the first responders, paramedics, police officers and Ottawa citizens that rushed to the scene. We recall a nation in mourning and the millions of Canadians shocked, saddened and scared by the traumatic scenes splashed across the media. How did this happen? What comes next? How will we cope?

Following the shooting last year, Francoise wrote this piece entitled “Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Ottawa Shooting: What happens when we all go back to our regular lives?” Today seems like the perfect time to reflect and to think critically about secondary traumatic stress, and particularly the STS experienced by those directly and indirectly affected by this shooting.

The article is available below in French & English.

“Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Ottawa Shooting: What happens when we all go back to our regular lives?”

“Le stress traumatique secondaire et la fusillade d’Ottawa : Qu’arrive-­t-­il après notre retour à la vie de tous les jours?

Maclean’s Magazine recently published an article on the coping strategies used by those first on the scene after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot. Click here to read more.

Q&A Interview: Dr. Patricia Fisher & Meaghan Welfare

On November 9-10th, Dr. Patricia Fisher & Meaghan Welfare, BA, will be offering Manager’s Guide to Stress, Burnout & Trauma in the Workplace at the Lamplighter Inn in London, ON. Last week, I sat down with Dr. Fisher & Meaghan Welfare to ask them a few questions about this unique training opportunity for managers in trauma-exposed workplaces.

Q) Why did you decide to offer this course together?

Dr. Fisher: I am excited to offer this program with Meaghan both because of her extensive professional background in mediation and compassion fatigue and expertise in working with highly stressful, complex workplaces such as the Canadian Armed Forces, and also because of her enthusiasm, commitment and passion for the work.

Meaghan: Dr. Fisher is a trailblazer in the field of high stress and trauma exposed work places. I am thrilled to be working alongside her to offer this amazing course.

Q) What are typical issues you see manager’s encountering in trauma-exposed workplaces?

A: Many work setting with a high level of trauma exposure such as corrections, child protection services, law enforcement and health care, to name a few, are dealing with significant external pressures such as inadequate funding, escalated staffing challenges with higher staff turnover and recruitment and retention, insufficient resources, interagency complexity, difficulties maintaining a positive and collaborative work culture, generational issues and succession planning, etc. This environment of heightened stress leads to higher levels of negative effects on staff and that in turn impacts the capacity, culture and productivity of the organization at all levels. Given all this, managers typically face multiple competing demands for their time and attention, and are often highly stressed, isolated and pressured themselves. Often managers are forced to be in a reactive, crisis-driven mode where they have to attend to the fire burning highest and closest. The challenges they address are often complex, layered and their immediate crisis-responses can sometimes lead to unintended consequence – these in turn generate more challenges that they need to deal with later.

Q) What kind of management strategies will participants learn about in this course?

A) Participants will learn how to understand the complex stress environment that they work within and to assess for the specific areas of resilience and the focal areas of risk. We will help each participant learn how to increase staff resiliency and reduce stress consequences. We use a risk needs assessment tool to define the participants’ priority action areas and help them develop practical plans and strategies to preserve and amplify their strengths, and address their challenges.

Each participant will be able to re-evaluate the efficacy of their strategies and make necessary adjustments over time.

When we consider the Organizational Health Model – the 12 vital factors are all causally linked and this approach supports them to effectively address the areas of:

·        Leadership

·        Staff wellness

·        Succession planning

·        Trust and respect

·        Communication

·        Work-home balance

·        Training effectiveness

·        Vision

·        Rewards and recognition

·        Ability to adapt

·        Employee commitment and teamwork


All of these are central to the capacity of a group to function effectively in a healthy and productive way. With this training, participants will develop skills to help them achieve resiliency and promote these vital factors.


Thank you Dr. Fisher & Meaghan!



For more information and to register for this event, please click here.


Q&A: Diana Tikasz on WTF and Other Strategies to Keep You Grounded

On September 30th, Diana Tikasz, MSW, RSW, will be offering WTF and Other Strategies to Keep You Grounded at the Royal Botanical Garden in Burlington, ON. I caught up with Diana last week to ask her about the workshop, her inspiration and what participants could expect from this training day.

Q: What inspired you to develop this workshop?

A: This workshop was developed out of my own personal struggles in my career as well as hearing from numerous workshop participants about similar struggles.  As a trauma therapist in health care settings for the last 26 years, I have experienced numerous WTF moments.  These moments tended to go one of two ways; 1. I would be hijacked by my emotions (usually fear or anxiety) or, 2. I would completely shut down by becoming forgetful, not hearing my clients or just feeling completely numb.  When these moments turned into weeks, I noticed it was incredibly difficult to get through my work day or even engage fully with my family, friends or life in general.   I questioned whether I needed to leave a career that I loved.   It didn’t seem possible to me that I could do my work and also stay emotionally and physically well.

Before taking the drastic step of career change I decided to try to learn to work differently.  My training as a social worker taught me well the techniques to help others; it just didn’t train me on the necessity of applying these techniques to help myself.  This I had to discover on my own.

This workshop is a compilation of some theory but mainly techniques in how to weather the inevitable WTF moments and storms. It is about learning a process that will not only build our resilience, but also our personal growth and enjoyment in our careers.  I have come to view doing helping work as a privilege (mostly) rather than a chore.  Work is not a means to an end but meaningful in and of itself.  We need to enjoy the journey and not just hang in there until retirement.   This workshop is designed to give folks more time to reflect and learn tools that not only help them weather the WTF storms, but also allow them to navigate the ship to be able to enjoy the journey to its fullest.

Q: What kind of skills or strategies will participants gain from attending this workshop?

A: Participants will learn a framework that will help them to continuously self-monitor.  This framework is grounded in neuro-science and will guide us so that we maintain our own emotional well- being.  It’s a framework that guides us to work within our optimal zone and fosters our ability to bounce back quickly after a WTF moment takes us out of that zone.  In this zone we feel calm yet energized, healthy and creative in our work.

The majority of the day will be spent learning and practising various strategies in a detailed way that helps us keep perspective, stay connected and present.  These strategies include:  learning how to quickly tap into our own personal resources as well as develop new ones; utilize tools that that help us self-regulate and recover; methods for gaining and maintaining perspective; skills in being fully present, aware and connected to our compassion.   These techniques will encompass the whole self as I find we can often retreat and get stuck in our heads. An emphasis will be on learning and incorporating strategies that change the way we work as opposed to using all our personal time to replenish what our work takes out of us.

Q: Who would most benefit from this workshop?

A: Those who would benefit are any folks in a helping profession that feel they are often overly stressed or hijacked by emotion, or those who are no longer enjoying their work and wondering whether they need to make a career change.  Helpers who wish to learn specific skills that they can utilize to protect themselves in difficult situations whether it is working with those challenging clients, sitting in a difficult team meeting or interacting with a colleague who pushes your buttons. It is also for those who find that at times their personal lives are creating the WTF moments, which makes it extremely difficult to be present at work.  I often say that helping work is even more difficult when the professional is going through their own personal stresses.   Again, we will focus on providing a framework and resources to help us navigate the storm.   This workshop is especially for those who are feeling completely detached from what they are doing, feeling as though they are just “going through the motions” or counting down the days to retirement.

Thanks, Diana!!

To find out more about WTF and Other Strategies to Keep You Grounded, or to register, please visit our website here. If you have any questions or concerns, please comment below or contact us directly at

Mercis. Point Final.

Par Alexandra Fortier, MSW, RSW.

« Appel aux champions » prend une pause d’été! Voici un dernier carnet avant les vacances.

Comme il a été mentionné dans mes parutions précédentes, j’aime remarquer les bonnes et simples choses tous les jours. Je remarque celles-ci dans des situations, des moments et chez les gens. J’aime aussi amener cette habileté un peu plus loin. Lorsque quelque chose m’impressionne, lorsque je suis en admiration ou encore, lorsque j’aime ce que quelqu’un porte, je l’exprime.

J’aime offrir des compliments et de la reconnaissance sincères. Ainsi, je sens que je contribue à créer un effet domino où nous ajoutons du positivisme dans le monde.

Toutefois, ce qui est intéressant lorsque l’on offre un compliment, peu importe quel en est le sujet, est la réaction des gens. Voici quelques-unes des réactions que j’ai pu observer :

  • Le silence inconfortable, suivi du sourire forcé.
  • La justification (« J’aime ta robe », répondu par : « Elle est vraiment vieille et je l’ai acheté en solde »)
  • Le déni (« Ce n’est rien, je n’ai vraiment pas fait grand-chose »)
  • La méfiance (voix interne – « C’est quoi qu’elle veut?! »)

Mais ce que j’aime vraiment est lorsque quelqu’un prend le temps d’arrêter, d’entendre ce qu’est le compliment en question, puis l’accepte.

Malheureusement, bien que je sois bonne à remarquer les choses extraordinaires qui m’entourent, et être en mesure de le verbaliser, je suis tout à fait coupable d’être le type de personne qui a de la difficulté à accepter un compliment qui m’est offert.

Donc, délibérément, j’arrête ma voix intérieure (qui tend à faire une des réactions mentionnées ci-dessus), afin d’être en mesure d’être présente au compliment offert et de… ouf… l’accepter.

Mon défi pour vous est donc de prendre le temps pour accepter un compliment (et aussi de continuer à en offrir).

Comment faire pour accepter un compliment? Voici les étapes :

  • Soyez présent et écoutez ce que la personne est en train de prendre le temps de vous dire
  • Dites : « Merci »… puis, arrêtez… point (évitez d’ajouter quoi que ce soit… c’est beaucoup plus difficile que cela le semble).
  • Oh, n’oubliez pas de sourire dans le processus. Mais sachez, votre sourire risque d’avoir une apparence inconfortable au début, mais persévérez. Éventuellement, cela viendra naturellement.

Sur ce, j’aimerais vous remercier d’avoir lu mes blogues cette année et aussi pour tous vos commentaires (maintenant est le moment de mettre en pratique le défi proposé :-)

Passez un bel été!


Thank yous. Period.

by Alexandra Fortier, MSW, RSW.

“Calling all champions” is a monthly column by Alexandra Fortier, a member of our team. “Calling all Champions” is taking a break for the summer so here’s Alexandra’s last post before the holidays.

As I have highlighted in my previous posts, I like to notice the good and simple things everyday. I notice these in events, in moments and in people. I also take this skill a step further, when I like something I’m impressed with, in awe of or simply if I like what someone is wearing, I will tell that person.

I love giving sincere compliments and acknowledgments. I feel that I’m contributing to creating a ripple effect where we are spreading positivity in the world.

What’s interesting when giving a compliment – no matter the topic – is how people react. Here are a few reactions I’ve observed:

  • The awkward pause, followed by the awkward smile.
  • The explanation (“I like your dress”, answered by “This old thing? I got it on sale”)
  • The denial (“I really didn’t do all that much”)
  • The mistrust (internal voice – “What does she want?!”)

But what I really enjoy is when someone stops, listens to the compliment paid and accepts it.

Unfortunately, even though I’m good at noticing the greatness around me and verbalizing it, I’m guilty of being the type of person who has difficulty accepting a compliment when it comes my way.

I’ve been deliberately stopping my internal voice that goes to my default mode (pick any of the above mentioned reactions) to be able to be present to the compliment someone is offering me and then… gulp… accepting it.

My challenge to you: take time to accept a compliment (and keep giving them out).

How do you accept a compliment? Here are the simple steps:

  • Be present and listen to what the person is taking the time to tell you
  • Say: “Thank you”… then stop… period (avoid adding anything else… it’s harder than it seems).
  • Oh, and smile in the process. But know that your smile might look awkward in the beginning, but keep working on it. It’ll eventually come naturally.

With this, I’d like to thank you for reading my blog posts this year and for all of your comments (now practice the above skill)  :-)

Enjoy your summer!

Calling All Champions: My Favourite Part of the Day

by Alexandra Fortier, MSW, RSW.

“Calling all champions” is a monthly column by Compassion Fatigue Solutions Associate Alexandra Fortier. The intent is to get your fire started and to get your inner champion moving.  We’d love to hear from you so please weigh in!

For a long time now, so long that I can’t remember when it began, I’ve been spotting the good things that have happened to me and to others during the day. Even though certain days are much more difficult than others, I take a moment to think about what I liked, what went well, or even for how long did I feel well today.

This skill really helped me in my personal and professional life, and I wish to pass it along because of its simplicity. Read more ›

Appel aux Champions: Mon moment préféré de la journée

Par Alexandra Fortier, MSW, RSW.

« Appel aux champions » est une série mensuelle écrite par notre associée Alexandra Fortier dans le but de stimuler la conversation et donner vie à vos idées. Bref, l’intention est d’attiser votre enthousiasme et d’activer votre champion intérieur. Nous aimerions connaître vos idées et opinions. Partagez vos réactions avec nous! »

Depuis longtemps, en fait, depuis si longtemps que je ne me souviens pas depuis combien de temps, je prends le temps de remarquer les bonnes choses qui m’arrivent et qui arrivent aux autres dans une journée. Bien qu’il y ait des jours qui soient plus difficiles que d’autres, je prends un moment pour réfléchir à ce que j’ai aimé, ce qui a bien été, voir même pour combien de temps je me suis sentie bien aujourd’hui. Read more ›

How to Outsmart your Negative Brain

CARE4YOU: The Fifth Annual conference on Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Traumatic Stress and Burnout is designed to care for those who care for others. This year, the program was developed around the theme of “Creating Change Agents”. The Conference will be held in Kingston, On. June 9-10, 2015.

This week, we highlight some of our exciting speakers and topics

How to Outsmart your Negative Brain With Daniel Doherty

Do you ever find it challenging to separate your work and personal life?

Helping professionals often feel personally invested in their caring roles – after all, we are caring individuals. There are great rewards for your investment, but there can also be a great personal cost attached to helping others. It can become difficult to separate work from home, and sometimes affects our personal relationships. Our go-to coping mechanism is often detachment from work and home. While we hope to be protecting ourselves, catching our breath, relaxing, and re-charging, the end result of detachment can lead to simply basking in negative thoughts.

Daniel Doherty tackles these issues in his presentation ‘How to Outsmart Your Negative Brain.’ During this session, Daniel will help participants understand the effects of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol on our limbic system and pre-frontal lobes. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D., believes the brain has a built in “negativity bias.” Stress often reinforces this negative bias and also diminishes and/or decreases the useful effects of our “happy hormones.” By understanding our brains when they are stressed, we can take advantage of those “happy hormones” oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, oxygen.

Throw in some jalapeno peppers and 26 seconds to learn how to outsmart the negative intrusive thoughts that keep us in a fatigued state of mind.

Daniel Doherty, MSN, works at Christiana Care Health Systems in Delaware. Christiana Care Health System is one of the country’s largest health care providers that serves more than 600,000 patients yearly; recently Christiana was honored with the Magnet Award status for excellence in nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. For the past 20 years, Daniel has gained experience in emergency nursing and staff development. Daniel has presented similar workshops on this topic to over 100 staff members at Christiana Care Health System and 34 police officers in the Wilmington Delaware Department. Daniel is also a part of the adjunct faculty with Delaware Technical & Community College. Delaware Tech is the State’s first community college, and seeks to inspire their mission of commitment, responsiveness, and vision on a national and state level.

For more information on CARE4YOU click here

Change on a Dime & Sparkle like Sunshine

CARE4YOU: The Fifth Annual conference on Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Traumatic Stress and Burnout is designed to care for those who care for others. This year, the program was developed around the theme of “Creating Change Agents”. The Conference will be held in Kingston, On. June 9-10, 2015.

This week, we highlight some of our exciting speakers and topics

Change on a Dime & Sparkle Like Sunshine:

Bridging the Gap Between Neuroscience and Real Life Applications

heart and brain

Speakers: Steven Hughes and Farah Jindani

In this 75 minute session, Steven Hughes and Farah Jindani invite participants to engage their bodies and brains to experience innovative techniques in trauma therapy. Their creative approach highlights new insights and understanding of trauma exposure, and the role of trauma-informed interventions. Participants will gain resources, including handouts and experiential activities, which will help change the way they feel and learn. Techniques are drawn from fields such as mindfulness, developmental optometry, neuroscience, neuro-linguistic programming, motor development, positive psychology, acupuncture and dance. Activities take between 30 seconds to 1 minute, which assists in restoring a feeling of calmness and control while improving focus. Theory is complemented with plenty of opportunities for hands-on practice and skill-building practices. Participants will learn specific techniques and movement that complement learning styles. Steven and Farah use re-patterning sequences that activate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic areas of the brain to work in synergy. Their strategies will help you to gain confidence, control, and tools to facilitate lasting focus and relaxation.

Steven Hughes, M.Ed., CTDP is an Education Specialist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. Steven provides educational programs that support physical and mental health, resilience and well-being. Steven integrates his interests and areas of expertise that include accelerated learning, positive organizational development, mindfulness, and wellness- based modalities. All of his programs support learners to gently explore the edges of their personal growth boundaries and to experience new realms of self-discovery. All of Steven’s programs are in harmony with trauma-informed and anti-oppression principles.


Farah Jindani, MSW, Ph.D has provided integrative counselling services to individuals, couples and adolescents for over 10 years. Farah studied psychology and gerontology at the University of Waterloo and went on to study criminology at the University of Cambridge, U.K. Her research interests led Farah to pursue a Masters of Social Work at the University of Toronto, specializing in Health and Mental Health.  Her approach is holistic, blending contemplative practices (including mindfulness, breath work, and yoga) with Western psychology and neuroscience. Her doctoral research focussed on the development, implementation and evaluation of an 8-week mindfulness/yoga program for post-traumatic stress. Farah seeks to understand traumatic stress within the context of each person’s lived experiences, relationships and society. She strives to increase resiliency and has developed training programs that assist with addiction, mental health and mindfulness. Farah currently works with the CAMH and provides consultation services.



For more information on CARE4YOU click here