Addressing compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a chronic issue among social service practitioners. Too often professionals become burned-out and unable to consistently empathize with clients. Many do not realize caring too much can hurt them physically, mentally, and emotionally until it is too late.

The American Institute of Stress defines compassion fatigue as ‘vicarious traumatization’ that can lead to sleep disturbance, impaired judgement, loss of self-worth, and an increase in angry outbursts. With this, behavioral health professionals have realized that self-care is one of the best ways to prevent the onset of compassion fatigue when working with trauma victims.

Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, Manager of Clinical Initiatives and Training, Denise Beagley, who completed her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, helps address the issue with a self-care professional development course taught at the CABHP. Denise explains how one can fall into the trap of compassion fatigue.

“When you have a calendar full of overdue tasks, projects remain unfinished, or when work is demanding more than you are able to give, you can easily become overwhelmed. To make deadlines, you start skipping lunch, stop going to the gym, or go to bed later. Over the course of a few days or weeks, your body slows down and you become less likely to want to do anything. It’s just that easy.”

Self-care helps individuals recharge and refocus so they can continue on with their tasks. Fortunately, there are ways to personalize and fit a good self-care practice into one’s schedule such as taking more breaks, writing in a journal, training for a marathon or spending more time with loved ones, just to name a few.

“Self-care is all about learning how to take care of yourself and identify those issues that trigger you to act in a negative manner,” says Beagley. “This is where the real work begins and where the course we offer helps participants focus and overcome.”

The next professional development course, “Compassion Fatigue & Self-Care,” is Aug. 29, at the Westward Ho located on the Downtown Phoenix campus, click here for more information and to register.