This will be a super quick post as I have two new workshops to prepare today and am very behind, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about some recent experiences. My past two weeks of work have been so rewarding and fulfilling, and it made me reflect on this concept, which Pearlman and Saakvitne discuss in their amazing little book Transforming the Pain (a book that was truly the cornerstone of the work Robin Cameron and I have done in the field of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma). At the end of Transforming the Pain, the authors invite readers to reflect and reconnect with the rewards of this work of helping others: What sustains you as a professional, they ask, what helps you reconnect with hope, joy and gets you going every day, to do this deeply challenging work? For me, running the Compassion Fatigue Train the Trainer courses is definitely among the top 5 reasons I do this work.
I just completed two such sessions: One at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and one in Kingston. The second training was an intensive – a three day retreat with a very small group of compassion fatigue educators, the Sinai one was with a larger group of health care workers. It is such a privilege to get to spend several days with these highly motivated trainees who have not only a huge interest in the field but also a vast amount of professional and lived experience themselves. It is not an expert vs student setting, but rather a knowledge exchange where everyone learns from the rest of the group, including (or especially) me. On the second day of the course, participants are asked to design and deliver a teaching component to the remainder of the class. This can be a nerve-wracking experience for those who have never done public speaking before. But every time I run this training, something magical happens on day two: people start owning the material and making it theirs, their voice emerges out of the group and they take a step into the world of becoming a compassion fatigue educator. It’s a truly beautiful thing. Every time this moment in the course comes, I am surprised and overcome with how emotional I feel, how proud I am of the trainees. It never gets old, after training nearly 500 Compassion Fatigue Trainers and offering the intro course to thousands of others, I am still super jazzed about it. In fact, it’s getting more and more fun as time passes. I think that’s a pretty good sign of a rewarding job, eh?
What is the reward of your work? What gets you up in the morning, and keeps you going in this weird and wonderful work that you do as a helping professional?
I am a huge fan of the Headington Institute, which is a US-based charitable organization whose aim is to provide education, consulting and counselling to humanitarian aid workers and organizations around the globe. Their inspiring and moving vision statement is: “One day, all humanitarian workers will have the personal skills, social support, organizational resources, and public interest needed to maintain their wellbeing and thrive in their work.” Who can argue with that beautiful goal? The Headington Institute provides a wealth of free online training materials. Go check it out by clicking here.
Today, I wanted to share a quick 5 minute video by Clinical Director Dr Don Bosch on “The good and bad news about resilience”.
You can also click here to access a lovely essay by Dr Galen Buckwalter on resilience.
So, go make yourself a nice cup of tea, and come back to enjoy this important reminder of what it is we need to do to stay afloat.
Compassion Fatigue Train the Trainer Retreat Nov 19-21, 2013
Are you a trainer/workshop facilitator?
Learn how to use the mind/body Connection in your workshops
November 21st: Morning Session of our three day Compassion Fatigue Train the Trainer intensive
How to use Trauma-Sensitive Mind-Body Work in your trainings and in your Self Care with Lynda Pedley, MBA, Master Integral Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher
In this interactive, experiential session, we will explore the impact of trauma on the body and the phenomenon of somatic memory. Having illuminated the psychophysiology of trauma, we will look at how you, in your line of work as the caregiver or first responder, can be at risk for compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma and how this may be expressed in your body. We will then create a personalized self-care strategy integrating mind and body. We will draw on the seminal work of several leaders in the field of psychobiology such as Babette Rothschild, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Peter A. Levine, Pat Ogden, and others. You will leave feeling grounded and empowered with practical tools you can use for your own self-care, and the care of your staff or colleagues and your clients.
1. To understand how the “body remembers”: the psychophysiology of trauma and vicarious trauma.
2. To identify your own individual risk factors for vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.
3. To create a personalized self-care plan that fits your unique life.
4. To experience a trauma sensitive approach to yoga and practice some simple and powerful movements you can use in many settings.
Click here to join us
November 19-21, 2013
for three days of in-depth training
with Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC.
*Extensive training materials provided: training dvds, power points and instructor’s manuals.
*Hands-on tools to become a compassion fatigue educator
*How to design a Compassion Fatigue workshop for your audience
*Resiliency skills: What works for individuals and organizations?
*Mapping out a wellness plan for you and your team
*How to use trauma-sensitive mind-body work in your trainings with Lynda Pedley
*Managing high stress, high conflict workplaces with Meaghan Welfare
*Small group consult: How to design a marketing or training plan with Françoise Mathieu
Unlike past years, we are only offering the Compassion Fatigue Train the trainer Intensive in November this year (It will not be offered in March). It will also be offered as a Webinar in February 2014.
To avoid disappointment, be sure to register a.s.a.p.
I worked as a mental health counsellor for a Canadian military base for about a decade. During this time, I saw many soldiers with PTSD – infantrymen, pilots, intelligence officers and other trades, all of whom had been exposed to unspeakable horrors in war-torn countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Many of them struggled with nightmares, anxiety, intrusive thoughts and reintegration into the civilian world. Some treatment modalities helped, some did not. At some point, a new military psychiatrist came into town, and all of a sudden I started hearing of clients being referred to hot yoga and mindfulness meditation (MBSR) classes. This, in the early 2000s, was very unusual in our neck of the woods.
Today, I am delighted to bring you an interview with Yael Calhoun, an E-RTY (Experienced Yoga Teacher, registered through Yoga Alliance) and executive director and co-founder of GreenTREE Yoga, based in Utah. I met Yael in Salt Lake City a few years ago and invited her and her colleague to present at our first annual compassion fatigue conference three years ago. I immediately loved Yael’s approach to yoga and her dedication to bringing yoga to populations who may not necessarily have access to it under normal circumstances. In this interview, Yael describes the tremendous benefits of trauma-sensitive yoga and offers simple techniques to help manage compassion fatigue. At the end of the interview, you will also find resources and links to explore this fascinating topic further. Thank you to Yael for sharing her thoughts and wisdom with all of us!
(This article on Low Impact Debriefing is an updated version of our original 2008 post. Click here to download a pdf version of the article)
Helpers who bear witness to many stories of abuse and violence notice that their own beliefs about the world are altered and possibly damaged by being repeatedly exposed to traumatic material.
Karen Saakvitne and Laurie Ann Pearlman, Trauma and the Therapist (1995).
After a hard day…
How do you debrief when you have heard or seen hard things? Do you grab your closest colleague and tell them all the gory details? Do your workmates share graphic details of their days with you over lunch or during meetings?
When helping professionals hear and see difficult things in the course of their work, the most normal reaction in the world is to want to debrief with someone, to alleviate a little bit of the burden that they are carrying – it is a natural and important process in dealing with disturbing material. The problem is that we are often not doing it properly – we are debriefing ourselves all over each other, with little or no awareness of the negative impact this can have on our well-being.
Helpers often admit that they don’t always think of the secondary trauma they may be unwittingly causing the recipient of their stories. Some helpers (particularly trauma workers, police, fire and ambulance workers) tell me that sharing gory details is a “normal” part of their work and that they are desensitized to it, but the data on vicarious trauma show otherwise – we are being negatively impacted by the cumulative exposure to trauma, whether we are aware of it or not.
Do you remember the last time you picked up a book that you could not put down until you had read every last word?
I just had that great pleasure with Laurie Barkin’s book The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit. This is a story of how a dedicated and highly experienced psychiatric nurse found her way into the depths of vicarious trauma and burnout and travelled her way back out again, having learned many important things along the way: Lessons about a dysfunctional health care system, the lack of support often experienced by patients and staff alike, about moral distress, repeated trauma exposure, about the price health care professionals pay when managed care has stripped away the structure that allowed them to do their work safely and ethically.
Sometimes I feel like that’s what we do at the hospital. We hold up the weight of the world. And, in doing so, we hear screams and witness the suffering that sometimes becomes our screams and our suffering, only we choke it back and continue bearing the weight without complaining and without acknowledging that we too need relief. L. Barkin “The Comfort Garden” (2011)
Here are the presentation slides from the November 8-9 Vicarious Trauma conference in Los Angeles, as promised. Please consider joining our mailing list to receive notices of upcoming events.
Click here to download slides from keynote presentation
Click here to download slides from workshop
Click here to join our mailing list
Journal articles on Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma and Child Protection
For an extensive bibliography, please visit the Child Welfare Information gateway: Secondary Trauma in the Child Welfare Workforce 2000-present. Compiled bibliography:
Bennett, S., Plint, A., & Clifford, T.J. (2005) Burnout, psychological morbidity, job satisfaction, and stress: a survey of Canadian hospital based child protection professionals. Arch. Dis. Child. 90; 1112-1116.
Conrad, D. & Kellar-Guenther, Y. (2003) Compassion Fatigue, burnout and compassion satisfaction among Colorado child protection workers. Child Abuse & Neglect 30(2006) 1071-1080.
Osofksy, J. (2009) Perspectives on helping traumatized infants, young children and their families. Infant mental health journal. Vol. 30(6), 673-677.
Books/Articles on Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma/Trauma
Baranowsky, A. (2002). The silencing response in clinical practice: On the road to dialogue. In C.R. Figley (Ed.), Treating compassion fatigue. New York: Brunner/Routledge.
Bober, T. & Regehr, C. (2005) Strategies for Reducing Secondary or Vicarious Trauma: Do They Work? Brief treatment and crisis intervention advance access, Dec 30, 2005.
Courtois, C.A., & Ford, J.D. (2009). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
Figley, C.R. (Ed.). (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Figley, C.R. (Ed.). (2002). Treating compassion fatigue. New York: Brunner/Routledge.
Gentry, E. (2002). Compassion fatigue: A crucible of transformation. Journal of Trauma Practice, 1(3/4), 37–61. Note: To obtain a PDF of this article, simply Google “Gentry crucible of transformation” and download the article from his Web site: www.compassionunlimited.com. (For some reason, visiting his Web site directly does not work but using Google does.) Do not download the version from Gift From Within as it is not the complete article.
Killian, K. (2008). Helping till it hurts? A multimethod study of compassion fatigue, burnout, and self-care in clinicians working with trauma survivors. Traumatology, 14(2), 32–44.
Mathieu, F. (2012). The compassion fatigue workbook: Creative tools for transforming compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization. New York: Routledge.
McCann, I.L., & Pearlman, L.A. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 131–149.
Pearlman, L.A., & Saakvitne, K.W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: W.W. Norton.
Remen, R.N., (1996). Kitchen table wisdom. New York: Riverhead Books.
Richardson, J. (2001). Guidebook on vicarious trauma: Recommended solutions for anti-violence workers. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence.
Rothschild, B. (2006). Help for the helper: The psychophysiology of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. New York: W.W. Norton.
Saakvitne, K.W., & Pearlman, L.A. (1995). Treating therapists with vicarious traumatization and secondary traumatic stress disorders. In C. Figley (Ed.), Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Saakvitne, K.W., Pearlman, L.A., & the staff of the Traumatic Stress Institute (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatization. New York: W.W. Norton.
Stamm, B.H. (Ed.). (1999). Secondary traumatic stress: Self-care issues for clinicians, researchers, and educators (2nd Ed.). Lutherville, MD: Sidran Press.
van Dernoot Lipsky, L. & Burke, C. (2009). Trauma stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
The University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work recently published a document called CW360 “Secondary Trauma and the Child Welfare Workforce.” It offers reflections from a number of child welfare specialists on secondary trauma from various perspectives: supervisors, foster parents, judges, rural workers, etc. It also has a comprehensive resource list and an “agency discussion guide” that provides key questions and discussion points for staff and managers. The best part about this compilation is that it’s free! Click here to access CW360.