When Helping Hurts: Preventing and Treating Compassion Fatigue
DVD 17 minutes, longer version also available
Contact: Joyce Boaz
Do you have compassion fatigue? What happens to the people who spend their days working with trauma victims? Are they somehow immune from being affected by the traumas and tragedies they witness? When Helping Hurts, a beautifully produced educational DVD about compassion fatigue, emphatically answers, NO. In fact, trauma workers are usually extremely empathic and tend to be other oriented, both traits which make them even more vulnerable to what Frank Ochberg, M.D. and Charles Figley, Ph.D. describe as compassion fatigue.
If you are or know a trauma worker, i.e. anyone ranging from a firefighter to a counselor who helps victims of extreme situations how would you recognize compassion fatigue? Symptoms to be aware of are a loss of sense of humor, irritability, feeling cynical, demoralized, feeling cut off from concerns and activities of family and friends, isolating oneself, and can even range to a spectrum of symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks similar to those seen in Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome.
Prevention of compassion fatigue involves maintaining a professional stance while providing services and being sure to take care of oneself when not. Making sure that you maintain clear boundaries, and eat, sleep, exercise, have fun, stay connected to family and friends, and yes, even have sex, when off duty is the only way to ensure that you will have the energy and resilience needed to provide the best of yourself when on.
Intervention services for trauma workers include individual counseling and peer support. Agencies can help their staff by creating peer support groups lead by workers trained in helping their peers with compassion fatigue.
return to top
return to 9-11 and after: coping with trauma
return to articles main page