Blog /Compassion Fatigue
CASRA features workshops for consumers and mental-health workers. I sat in on the seminar titled "Compassion Fatigue or Vicarious Trauma." I learned that qualities such as empathy, care, regard, and concern (which most therapists and mental health workers possess), are the very same qualities that can cause compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is characterized by the onset of fatigue, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety and a general preoccupation with work that can greatly interfere with a person’s ability to work.
As a licensed psychotherapist, I know that Compassion fatigue is often the result of working with people who have experienced trauma and whose lives are in a state of great upheaval over extended periods of time. The accumulation of work experiences with those in prolonged states of chronic trauma can overwhelm the boundaries of even the most seasoned mental health workers. Therefore, preventative steps must be taken to thwart compassion fatigue.
Some of the ways to help prevent compassion fatigue involve developing a therapeutic community, which can help to lift us and validate our self-care habit. A therapeutic community can also hold us accountable for using good self-care, support our sense of resilience, not allow us to isolate, and immerse us in humor. Another practice that is known to be effective in preventing compassion fatigue is called psychological resilience. Resilience in psychology refers to the idea of an individual's ability to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual bouncing back to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a strengthening effect and function better than expected. Resiliency is a very important aspect of the overall capacity for one to function well under stress, and helps prevent compassion fatigue.