Vicarious Trauma

Thank a helping professional today

“Listening can be an act of social justice” beautiful, inspiring, a call to action

Great resource! Self-Care Starter Kit

how to flourish in social work

The University at Buffalo School of Social Work has developed an excellent self-care starter kit aimed at social work students and other professionals. They have an extensive bibliography, readings, checklists and other resources. They also have a great infographic called “How To Flourish in Social Work” which you can view here.

It’s very exciting to see such good quality resources emerging from the trenches. If you are an educator, preceptor or supervisor, please share this resource with your folks. This is a great tool for all helping professionals.


Summertime reads, recipe and an invitation to stay in touch


Here’s a quick post for you today with three items: new reads, a recipe and an invitation…

It’s finally summer!  This is hopefully a time for you to slow down a bit, enjoy the beautiful weather, have a picnic, maybe go to a local market or outdoor music festival on your day off.

June was a very busy time for me, starting with the wonderful Care4You conference (photos will be posted next week!), a work trip the Florida Panhandle,  and a trek to England to visit family and friends.

Needless to say that by July 1st, I felt the need for a little r&r after all of this excitement.

Whenever I finish a hectic time and need to refuel, I try to go back to the basics: get more sleep, eat more greens and less carbs, ditch the caffeine and get more exercise. Those simple things help keep me grounded, and when I go too long without them I start feeling tired, unwell and irritable. So I went back to read my favourite healthy eating blogs and spent a bit more time in the kitchen juicing and making homemade meals. I came across this weird and wonderful gluten-free bread recipe that I will share with you below. There are also some newly published compassion fatigue articles to recommend, for your time in the hammock!

1) New Reads on Compassion Fatigue

I just had two new articles published and a book chapter which I co-wrote with my colleague Leslie McLean from Capital Health Cancer Care, in Halifax.

For Family Caregivers: When the Juggling Act Isn’t Working: 5 Key Strategies to Reduce Compassion Fatigue and Burnout. Click here

For nurses: Occupational Hazards: Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout. Click here.

New Book Chapter: Managing Compassion Fatigue, Burnout and Moral Distress in Person and Family Centered Care Click here


2) Healthy Eating, Cool Gluten-Free Bread Recipe

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I am a big fan of healthy eating and enjoy reading food blogs for pleasure. My two current favourites are Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw, a New York nutritionist, and My New Roots, a beautiful whole food blog by Sarah B. a Canadian who now lives in Denmark but recently spent 6 weeks in Bali (yes, I know, tough). What I like about these bloggers is that they propose easy, fresh recipes without dogma.

Sarah B. posted a crazy-sounding gluten-free bread recipe last year, called “The Life Changing Loaf of Bread” which may seem like a rather bold statement. I was intrigued, but did not have time to gather the ingredients to try it out until yesterday. Well, what a success! This produces a very dense, toastable seed bread. Not suitable for sandwiches but perfect for toasting. Fantastic! Click here for a the link to the recipe.

3)  Join the anti-spam brigade, and make sure you stay on our mailing list!

Finally, an important note to any of you on my mailing list. If you are a Canadian reader, you will likely have been deluged by emails lately from all sorts of businesses asking you to confirm that you wish to continue receiving their emails. A new anti-spam legislation became effective july 1st, 2014 and if you do not confirm your desire to receive emails from us, we will have to remove you to comply with the regulation. So please take a minute to click on the “confirm” button in the email we sent you recently.  Thanks!

Now, I’m going to go watch some tennis and World cup soccer and drink some romaine, cucumber fennel juice. (It sounds weird but it tastes great.)

Here’s wishing you a lovely summer!

Slides from June 2014 Care4You Conference

What a wonderful two days! thanks to all of you who joined us at last week’s Care4You Compassion Fatigue Conference in Kingston. In the coming weeks, we will post photos as well.












In the coming days, we will be posting the slides from the conference here. Come back if the talk you are looking for isn’t posted yet, and we hope to see you next year!

Compassion Fatigue 101 with Françoise Mathieu – Click here for slides

Care4Your Body Care4You with Lynda Pedley – Click here for slides

Rethinking Compassion as Moral Stress with Donna ForsterClick here for slides

Nutrition: The Fuel for Mental Health with Jess Sherman – Click here for slides

Managing Compassion Fatigue with Mindfulness and Self Compassion with Robin Beardsley - Click here for slides

Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster with the Patient  with Jennifer Juneau – Click here

Embracing Gratitude with Cathy Mosole – Click here for slides

Irest, Yoga Nidra with Bill McLaughlin – Click here for slides

Oxygen for Caregivers with Simon Fox – Click here for slides and here for handouts

Improving Morale by Supporting Each Other with Romney Pierog – Click here for slides

Improv your Outlook with Mary Harvey – Click here for slides

Education for Next-Generation Frontline staff with Karen Mayer – Click here for slides

Upcoming Events May-June 2014

Here are several exciting training events coming up in the next few weeks!

Walking the Walk – Toronto, May 27, 2014


Françoise Mathieu will be in Toronto on May 27, 2014 offering the one day workshop Walking the Walk: Creative Tools for Transforming Compassion Fatigue for the Hincks Dellcrest. Registration for this event is now open. Registrants will receive a copy of Françoise’s book: “The Compassion Fatigue Workbook” at registration.  For more information, please click here

Laughter Yoga – Kingston, June 2, 2014

Sylvie-circle-bgA full day “Playshop” with Laughter Yoga Practitioner Sylvie Dagenais-Douville where participants will learn the value of laughter as an exercise that can enhance energy levels and keep you cheerful and fit. To laugh without any reason and to be able to practice laughter exercises at any time. How to change their mood by doing these laughter exercises, thereby bringing a change in their attitude towards others. This will also help them to cope with difficult and challenging situations with a positive frame of mind. To release negative emotions and bring about an emotional balance for better relationships with colleagues in the workplace and with family at home. How to apply the wisdom of laughter yoga to bring more laughter and joy in their workplace. No yoga experience necessary to participate!

Click here for more information and click on “Preconference Events”


Care4You: The Fourth Annual Compassion Fatigue Conference, Kingston, June 3-4, 2014



This year, we have a record number of registrants! Join us for two days of connection, learning and refuelling.  Keynote speakers Meaghan Telpner, Nutritionista and author of “Undiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health” and Dr David Posen, author of “Is Work Killing You?” and “The Little Book of Stress Relief.” Limited seats are still available. Click here for more information


Transforming Trauma: The Journey of one Woman

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014

Workshop: Transforming Trauma – The Journey of one Woman 

with Deborah A. Sinclair, Social Worker






In her 35 years of practice with trauma survivors and the allies who support them, Deborah Sinclair has witnessed the deep emotional and cognitive impact on our bodies, hearts, minds and spirits, and the pervasiveness of vicarious traumatization (VT) for helpers/clinicians/allies. She has also noted, as with trauma survivors, that this vicarious traumatization can lay the foundation for vicarious resilience and posttraumatic growth. This is a good news story that can provide hope to all of us in our moments of quiet despair.

In this presentation, Deborah Sinclair will present the latest research findings that have relevance for mitigating vicarious traumatization in our personal and our professional lives and deepen our understanding of what facilitates vicarious resilience and post-traumatic growth. What inspires each of us to perform as our best selves in the  pursuit of excellence?

The presenter: 

Deborah Sinclair is a social worker in independent practice in Toronto, ON. Over her 35 year involvement in social justice work, Deborah has worked in many different capacities – clinician, writer, speaker, trainer, researcher, and expert witness. Deborah is a founding member of the Emily Stowe Shelter for Women, Women We Honour Task Force on Intimate Femicide and Luke’s Place. In January 2003, she was appointed to the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC), an expert advisory committee of the Ontario Chief Coroner’s office that reviews all intimate partner homicides/suicides in Ontario. Deborah works as a resource to assist professionals and advocates working with high risk populations to deal with vicarious trauma and resilience in their work settings including crown attorneys, family law lawyers,  police officers, paramedics,  health care providers, teachers, child welfare workers and  shelter staff. Deborah facilitates debriefings for individuals and groups experiencing a critical incident, and mediates to resolve staff conflicts, manage staff expectations and transform work settings into supportive, high performing sites of excellence. Deborah is the YWCA 2010 Woman of Distinction for Social Justice and is currently a Ph.D candidate at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.

 Click here for more information about the Care4You Conference

Compassion Fatigue in Healthcare: Insight from the Frontlines

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014

Compassion Fatigue in Health Care: Insight from the Frontlines


Working in health care has become more complex in the past decade: a rapidly ageing population, decrease in resources, increased workload from a perfect recipe for overload, burnout and compassion fatigue. In this plenary presentation, 3 nurses join forces to share their combined 50+ years of experience in caring for patients and discuss what they have learned about the importance of caring for each other.

Riding the emotional rollercoaster with patients

Jennifer Juneau, RN, Life Coach

Courage Coach

Jennifer Juneau has been a Registered Nurse for 18 years with combined experience in the Operating Room, fertility and women’s health. She recently became a Solution Focused Life Coach and specializes in fertility coaching and health and wellness coaching.

Education for next-generation frontline staff

Karen Mayer, RN, BEd, MAEd

Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board

Karen Mayer is a Registered Nurse with 30 years of healthcare experience in both hospital (Chronic Care, Maternity and ER) and was co-owner of a private, thriving home care business for seven years. She returned to school twelve years ago to obtain BEd and MAEd and has been teaching Personal Support Workers (PSWs) at Loyola School of Adult and Continuing Education for the past ten years. As a twelve year member of the Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators (CESBA), she has been Chair of the PSW committee for the past three years. Having experienced Compassion Fatigue, Karen developed a bucket list. Multi-tasker that she is, she knocked off two items from her bucket list, working in a mission and working with Patch Adams by completing a mission trip to Guatemala with Patch Adams.

Improving Morale by Supporting Each Other

Romney Pierog, RN

Kingston General Hospital

Romney Pierog has been a frontline Registered Nurse for 15 years with over 11 years in critical care experience. She currently works at Kingston General Hospital. She also has a degree in English literature and psychology from Carleton University.

Romney is currently working on a project where she has been interviewing frontline staff, management and patients on morale and satisfaction. She is looking at improving morale by improving communication and by recognizing the obstacles posed by stress, compassion fatigue and burnout.

 Click here for more info about the conference

Managing Intense Stress

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014

Plenary Session: Managing Intense Stress

Sometimes life can be intensely stressful. Managing it all can be very hard, and yet some people just seem to keep it all together.  Ever wondered how they do it?  These three experts want to teach you some of the ways to hold your ground, even when life, work and family are at their most demanding. Come and hear three perspectives on managing difficult times while connecting with hope and gratitude.

brave woman

Taking Care of Business:  Understanding how the past impacts the present

Vic Unruh, therapist and consultant 

HeartStories Unlimited, Winnipeg

Vic Unruh is a private practice therapist working primarily with families who are engaged with child protection agencies. Vic has worked with children, parents and families struggling with separation, reunification and prevention. He has also been a workshop facilitator with several family resource centres, schools, child protection agencies and conferences on a variety of topics focusing on family preservation.

Irest: A tool for managing extreme trauma and stress

Bill McLaughlin, clinical psychotherapist

Kingston Institute of Psychotherapy & Neurofeedback

Integrative restoration (Irest) is a simple but powerful guided meditation developed from a three thousand year old yoga practice. Irest was developed by Clinical Psychologist Dr. Richard Miller in conjunction with the U.S. Military to address the negative impacts on the human body and mind from intense stress. Since its development, research has shown demonstrated success with people who suffer PTSD, anxiety, depression and with specific populations. Students, sufferers of chronic pain, people who are homeless and corporate executives have all demonstrated improved well-being and reduced indicators of stress with the practice of iRest.

Bill McLaughlin is a Clinical Psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of traumatic stress. Bill has been in private practice for six years providing services to Veterans, active duty military, and law enforcement professionals. Bill is also a Professor at St Lawrence College where he teaches an on-line course he developed on traumatic stress. Bill is an accomplished researcher and considered one of the most knowledgeable clinicians in the area of the assessment, treatment, and recovery from traumatic stress.

Changing the Focus: Embracing gratitude


Cathy Mosole, counselor & chaplaincy

Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board

Cathy Mosole has worked in the Domestic Violence, Child Welfare, Children’s Mental Health, Policing Fields, and for the past 10 years in the Education Field.

Click here for more information


Beyond Kale and Pedicures…What works to manage compassion fatigue?

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014.

The conference will open with a presentation called Beyond Kale and Pedicures….What Works to Manage Compassion Fatigue? with Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed, CCC. Compassion Fatigue Specialist and author of “The Compassion Fatigue Workbook”

book launch photoSince the mid 1990s, an entire new industry of wellness has emerged: workshops, books, retreats and videos, all aiming to assist professional caregivers and other helping professionals reduce compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. Many workplaces jumped on the bandwagon early and started encouraging self-help strategies in their staff. Human resource departments began running workshops for staff on healthy eating, work-life balance and “stress busting”. Some organizations implemented regular fitness breaks and staff appreciation days.

Sounds great, right? The problem is that it didn’t really work – many staff stayed away, rates of burnout did not decrease significantly and staff morale continued its downward spiral. To be fair, it made sense for workplaces to focus on self-care – it was inexpensive, easily implemented and it didn’t require major systemic change. It was something concrete they could do. But maybe the solution to compassion fatigue and burnout is a little more complicated…

This presentation will discuss new research which suggests that in order to reduce compassion fatigue and burnout, we need to adopt a multi-pronged approach. Helpers, on their own, cannot be expected to fix an entire system. They do however remain responsible for their own well-being – it is an ethical responsibility, for themselves, their clients and the community in which they live.

So, how do we make this work? Join us for an exploration of where we are at, 20 years after the birth of this field.

Click here for more about Françoise Mathieu

Click here for more information

30 Speakers, 20 workshops, 3 Keynote Presenters

Hi! Sorry for the long silence!

In the coming days, I will be blogging about some of the fantastic talks being offered at this year’s annual Compassion Fatigue Conference, June 3-4, 2014. This is a very exciting event for us – now in its fourth year, the conference has grown in some wonderful ways thanks to my new conference planner, the amazing Lisa Doulas, who has taken the helm of all things related to organising the event: this year, we have 30 speakers over two days who will present on wellness, organizational health, managing highly stressful situations, mindfulness and many other topics in line with our themes of “Learn, Connect and Refuel”.  We have a great lineup of speakers, including stress expert Dr David Posen, Nutritionista Meghan Telpner and even a vice president from Cirque du Soleil! (ok the Cirque du Soleil guy is my adorable brother, but still, isn’t that very cool?)

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like lately because all of my writing energy has been concentrated on writing a feature article for an American psychotherapy magazine. My piece is a stock-taking exercise – after 20 years of compassion fatigue research, what have we learned, what works, what are agencies doing right, does self-care really work? I look forward to sharing this with you once it’s done. Right now, I am just learning the ropes of writing for a mainstream magazine, particularly dealing with a great editor who doesn’t mince his words when he doesn’t like what I’ve written. Ouch! But I’m learning a ton and he’s being a great teacher. It’s not always a bad thing for the ego either, to be schooled into a new genre.

Next week, I am off to Victoria, B.C. to attend the International Counselling Association Conference and the Canadian Counselling Psychotherapy Conference. Nice spot to visit in early May! Given that all we’ve had in my part of the world lately has been rain and cold weather, I am excited to leave for a week and looking forward to connecting with colleagues and learning a lot at the two conferences.

So, stay tuned for more on our Care4You Conference. We still have few seats left, but they are going fast. If you are thinking of joining us, I would recommend booking your seats soon. We are also offering a Laughter Yoga session as a preconference event. One person recently told me that she is bringing her mom to it. How cute is that?

Click here for more info about the June 3-4, 2014 Care4You Conference.