We can hardly explore the joy-pain spectrum in helping roles without looking at the pointy end. While previous blogs in this 5-part series explored the positive, protective factors, this post examines the risks in empathic connection when working with those who are suffering. Here, we will consider the symptoms, contributing factors and the differences between empathic strain (compassion fatigue), burnout, secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma.
Given the outward focus on the individual, it is ironic that many of us in this Western culture struggle to truly care for, and nurture ourselves with kindness. Regardless of the types of mothering experiences we have had, at some point we all need to find ways to nurture our inner child. See below for an infographic that summarises one approach to self-mothering in three simple steps.
This Mother's Day blog brings an invitation for teachers, counsellors, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to reflect upon how you might invite self-kindness through self-mothering: a process of caring for your needs as a loving mother might. If you are feeling unappreciated and exhausted, how might you protect, care for, love unconditionally, and find a way to truly see what you need?
From the first three parts of 'The Helping Professionals Interview Series' we've heard that teachers and health professionals struggle to reach out for support and care for themselves. Why is this? In this penultimate blog in the series, we hear through the voices of participants that the answer is tied up in societal messages that begin in childhood, and continue on through professional training and within workplace cultures.
Well before COVID reared its ugly head, the World Health Organisation predicted a global mental health crisis. With a return to lockdowns and uncertainty everywhere, it's more important than ever to find different ways to support ourselves at home, at work or working from home - wherever you fit now, or when it changes again. See below for some tips on managing the “new normal” of lockdown and uncertainty.
Polyvagal theory describes how our nervous system works hard to help us to connect with others, to keep us safe, and to protect us against threat. Many are familiar with terms such as fight, flight and freeze. However this is only part of the picture. This article unpacks three organising principles of polyvagal theory that help to make it accessible, understandable and easy to translate into daily life.
The concept of compassion fatigue has been around for twenty five years. Often closely linked (and at times incorrectly used interchangeably with) burnout, compassion fatigue has been a focus for researchers interested in mitigating the risks workers face with prolonged exposure to the suffering of others. Leading experts are calling for a change in terminology, suggesting that ‘empathic strain’ is a more accurate term due to the differing neural networks involved in empathy and compassion. See below for a brief overview of the discussion.
Within the helping professions we often focus on the more challenging end of the joy - pain spectrum in this work: exhaustion, compassion fatigue, secondary stress and vicarious trauma. This blog series seeks to rectify that, with Part 1 focusing on vicarious resilience, Part 2 unpacking compassion satisfaction, Part 3 looks at suggested changes in terminology and Part 4 addressing the importance of, and risks associated with, connecting with others when in a helping role. Cultivating awareness of both ends of the joy - pain spectrum in the helping professions is essential in supporting worker wellbeing.
Post-traumatic growth is a familiar concept to many. But what about other positive impacts that workers can experience? Vicarious resilience and compassion satisfaction help us to understand the ways that workers in helping or caring roles can be positively impacted, or even transformed, by witnessing the strength and resilience of others. Holding an awareness of both ends of the spectrum - the joy and the pain in the work - may hold the key for a healthy, successful and durable career.
Therapy groups are a fantastic way to find support and connect with others facing similar experiences. They bring people together, help you to see that you are not alone and can be a way to learn about yourself in relation to others. In joining with others in a group, you can develop skills in communication, see things from different perspectives, share learnings and develop some great networks of support.