Gift of Empathy: Burn Out, Vicarious Traumatization and Compassion Fatigue in Clinicians

gift of empathy

Mental health care professionals have the difficult job of dealing with pain and suffering on a daily basis. Part of a caretaking job is to instill hope and empower clients to make healthy choices in their lives. This type of work can take a physical, emotional and spiritual toll. It is important to attend to and understand how to manage the effects of our work on our professional and personal lives. When we clinicians practice living a balanced, stable and conscious life it will empower us in our role as mentors/guides to people suffering through their addiction and recovery challenges.

Burn-Out, Vicarious Traumatization (VT) and Compassion Fatigue (CF) are concepts that describe the impact of caring for others on the healthcare/mental health worker. It is an occupational hazard, an inescapable effect of dealing with pain, suffering and losses in the lives of others.

Our beliefs are challenged by the stories of abandonment, betrayal, hurt and abuse experienced by the client. In dealing with an addict’s issues, often the underlying trauma is the root cause of the addiction. Interventionists, case mangers, therapists, recovery coaches and addiction counselors empathetically connect to the traumatized person. This connection puts the helper at risk of becoming vulnerable to intense and overwhelming feelings, disrupting their world-view of right and wrong, good and bad.

In this workshop participants will learn about and understand the following concepts: Conscious Empathy & Unconscious Empathy; Burn-Out, Vicarious Traumatization (VT) and Compassion Fatigue (CF). We will discuss the signs and symptoms of each concept and learn how to recognize them in ourselves and others. Together we will explore effective strategies for management and prevention, including resources for continued support.

Participants will engage in role-play exercises to identify transference and counter transference issues within the therapeutic relationship. We will practice recognizing body sensations and intuitive awareness through breathing exercises, guided imagery and verbal and non-verbal cues that reveal the dynamics in these interactions.

We will have role play demonstrations about Karpman’s Drama Triangle and learn to manage personal and professional boundaries to maintain effective ethical behavior. We will discuss when to seek consultations, clinical supervision and be validated for having human responses to tough, overwhelming situations with clients/patients. It is important that we learn to maintain our humanity and humility in a field that gives us a tremendous amount of power to influence another human being.

Helpful and informative handouts will be shared to assist you in taking charge of your physical and emotional well-being. Topics will include self-care and assessment tools to measure and manage your level of Burn-out, Vicarious Traumatization (VT) and Compassion Fatigue (CF).

Join me in this workshop as we support each other in this challenging field of addiction and trauma. Let’s use the collective wisdom we all have to inspire each other and learn from our experiences so we can continue to be empowered and resilient while compassionately caring for others and ourselves.

It is even said that Mother Teresa understood compassion fatigue before the concept became mainstream. She wrote in her plan to her superiors that it was mandatory for her nuns to take an entire year off from their duties every 4-5 years to allow them to heal from the effects of their care-giving work.

Salubha Abhyankar bio