by Daniel Jacob, MSW
Our individual capacity for compassion is often uniquely different. However, have you ever thought about what we as helping professionals share in common, and how this in itself could impact our well-being? Turns out that if you bring true compassion, empathy, care and concern into your practice, you’re more than likely to be vulnerable to Compassion Fatigue. What is Compassion Fatigue?
Its our capacity for compassion, but it can impact us in ways which can ultimately impact our personal self and our professional practice. Many helping professionals continue to experience the feelings and symptoms of this important concept, and thus are reaching out to understand it, learn from it, and hopefully take action to manage it.
“Most of us became counselors because we wanted to assist others in need. Yet our capacity for compassion, along with the intensity of our work can, at times, leave us vulnerable for “compassion fatigue.” This is a term that was coined to describe the set of symptoms experienced by caregivers who become so overwhelmed by the exposure to the feelings and experiences of their clients that they themselves experience feelings of fear, pain, and suffering including intrusive thoughts, nightmares, loss of energy, and hypervigilance. It can be cumulative (from the effects helping many clients) or occur in response to a particularly challenging or traumatic individual case. This extreme state of anxiety and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped becomes traumatizing for the helper. For this reason it is sometimes called “vicarious traumatization” or “secondary traumatization” (Figley, 1995).”
My hope by writing this piece is that it will give you a clear and concise understanding of how your own capacity for compassion can impact your well-being while becoming informed. It’s important to be aware of the how, what, and why is behind the fatigue you can’t seem to recover from. There is plenty of available research and information on this topic. Understanding the presenting signs will hopefully lead to early recognition and awareness which is vital to your resiliency in managing the effects of compassion fatigue. Understanding and Preventing Compassion Fatigue is another resource to help you further your search for information.
As I have given you a base of knowledge here, the next step is for you to open the door towards change. Even, if this means advocating for and educating about compassion fatigue within your own professional setting. May this find you well as you continue to reach, teach, empower and support all while helping yourself in the process!