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Compassion Fatigue

Sierra Israel-Schned, Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, and Ani Dingamtar. December 2019

What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion is a “feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by suffering or misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause” (webster’s, 1989, p. 229). Although professional boundaries should always be acknowledged and followed, the therapeutic alliance is built out of the client liking and trusting his or her therapist. Therefore, these feelings are directly related to the expression of empathy and compassion of the practitioner (Figley, 2002). Moreover, because the therapist/patient relationship is based on feelings of empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard, the emotional and interpersonal bond is a unique but essential component to a healthy therapeutic alliance (Ardito & Rabellino, 2011). Therefore, it is important for the practitioner in these emotional therapeutic relationships to pay close attention to their own mental and physical health. 

What does compassion fatigue mean for social work?

Compassion fatigue is not limited to the social work profession, however as ‘caring professionals’ we work closely with individuals who have experienced trauma. Vicarious trauma often referred to as the “cost of caring” (Figley, 1982) is a phenomenon where counsellors/social workers are exposed to therapeutic dialogue where trauma survivors share their stories. Although this work is meaningful and necessary therapeutic partnerships can lead to emotional exhaustion, this is referred to as compassion fatigue (CF). Therefore, paying close attention to our emotional and physiological health is imperative for providing empathetic and compassionate allyship to those we work alongside. 

How you can recognize compassion fatigue (signs and symptoms)?

As mentioned above, It is important to pay close attention to your wellbeing when engaging in therapeutic conversations. The signs and symptoms of CF will vary from individual, however, bellow is a list of some signs and symptoms to look out for: 

  • Sadness and Grief 
  • Avoidance or dread of working with some clients
  • Reduced ability to feel empathy towards patients or families 
  • Somatic complaints 
  • Addictions
  • Nightmares
  • Frequent use of sick days 
  • changes in beliefs, expectations assumptions 
  • detachment
  • decreased intimacy 
  • Racing thoughts
  • numbness 
  • health concerns 
  • decreased creativity 
  • loneliness (transitional support, n.d)

What you can do to stay empowered (practical tips, strategies and tools)

Staying empowered can be difficult, however, you are not alone in your journey. There are ways to balance and even prevent compassion fatigue, which include:

  • Living more consciously
  • Knowing when to slow down
  • Reflection 
  • Physical activity 
  • healthy eating habits 

 It is important to know self and map out formal and informal supports to build resilience.  Understanding and recognizing your limits to your work is crucial for knowing when it is time to slow down. 

Inspiration Quotes about Compassion Fatigue

“Slowly you may have transformed from a helper to one in need of help. It’s important to talk about this, to identify the wounds you carry.”

― Jenn Bruer, Helping Effortlessly: A Book of Inspiration and Healing

“I discovered that compassion fatigue is a real thing. Emotions, so strong at first, can easily shift into apathy. The subsequent guilt is paralyzing; it can prevent us from ever doing anything and freeze us into inaction. No wonder some people live for themselves, unaware of or unengaged with those who desperately need help. When global problems overwhelm, the human tendency is to do nothing.”

― Chris Marlow, Doing Good Is Simple: Making a Difference Right Where You Are

More quotes on Goodreads 

Where you can learn more about compassion fatigue  

We are fortunate to live in a time where access to great resources is just a click away. Below are resources that can help guide you on the path of self-care and compassion fatigue prevention. 

The Compassion Fatigue Podcast with Jennifer Blough, LPC 

The Compassion Fatigue Podcast provides self-care tips, stress management techniques, and support to animal welfare professionals including shelter workers, veterinary staff, rescue workers, animal control officers, humane investigators, animal rights activists, wildlife conservationists, animal attorneys, pet sitters, dog walkers, groomers, volunteers, foster parents, ethical vegetarians and vegans, and all other animal lovers. Professional counsellor Jennifer Blough interviews experts on the best ways to combat compassion fatigue and burnout and cultivate compassion satisfaction

Click here  

The Figley Institute Website

Figley Institute offers cutting edge training and continuing education programs to those who provide relief to emotionally traumatized individuals, families, businesses, and communities. 

The Figley Institute: Basics of Compassion Fatigue Work Book Click here

To provide each participant with the knowledge and skills necessary to reduce the secondary impact of working with traumatized populations.’

Compassion Fatigue among Healthcare, Emergency and Community Service Workers: A Systematic Review click here

Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project (CFAP) website

CFAP Founder Patricia Smith recently gave a presentation at the TEDx SanJuanIsland event. Check it out Here !  

If you find any additional resources please share them in the comments.

Keep learning and sharing your knowledge.

Sierra, Sasha and Ani.

References

Adams, R. E., Boscarino, J. A., & Figley, C. R. (2006). Compassion fatigue and psychological distress among social workers: A validation study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 103-108. doi:10.1037/0002-9432.76.1.103

Ardito, R.B, Rabellino D. (2011) Therapeutic alliance and outcome of psychotherapy: historical excursus, measurements, and prospects for research. Front Psychol. 2011;2:270.:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270

Blough, J. (n.d.) The compassion fatigue podcast. Retrieved from https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-compassion-fatigue-podcast 

Cocker, F., & Joss, N. (2016). Compassion fatigue among healthcare, emergency and community service workers: A systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(6), 618. doi:10.3390/ijerph13060618

Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.compassionfatigue.org/index.html

Figley Institute (2012).  Workbook. Retrieved from http://www.figleyinstitute.com/documents/Workbook_AMEDD_SanAntonio_2012July20_RevAugust2013.pdf

Figley, C. R. (Ed.). (2002). Treating compassion fatigue. Routledge.

Good therapy (n.d.). Compassion fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/compassion-fatigue

Smith, P. (2017). How to manage compassion fatigue in caregiving | Patricia Smith | TEDxSanJuanIsland. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7keppA8XRas

Transitional Support (n.d). Burnout vs. compassion fatigue. Retrieved from: http://transitionalsupport.com.au/transitional-phase/compassion-fatigue-trauma/ 

Additional Resources

Boyle, D. A. (2015). Compassion fatigue: The cost of caring. Nursing2019, 45(7), 48-51. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/nursing/Fulltext/2015/07000/Compassion_fatigue__The_cost_of_caring.15.aspx

Coetzee, S. K., & Laschinger, H. K. (2018). Toward a comprehensive, theoretical model of compassion fatigue: A n integrative literature review. Nursing & health sciences, 20(1), 4-15.

Diaconescu, M. (2015). Burnout, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue in social work. Revista de Asistenţă Socială, (3), 57-63. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/03b1/b5fc11bb545a9e61f0baf2cb5420df9daf52.pdf

Hamilton, S., Tran, V., & Jamieson, J. (2016). Compassion fatigue in emergency medicine: the cost of caring. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 28(1), 100-103. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jennifer_Jamieson2/publication/290963237_Compassion_fatigue_in_emergency_medicine_The_cost_of_caring/links/5a711231aca272e425ed3b0a/Compassion-fatigue-in-emergency-medicine-The-cost-of-caring.pdf

Kapoulitsas, M., & Corcoran, T. (2015). Compassion fatigue and resilience: A qualitative analysis of social work practice. Qualitative Social Work, 14(1), 86-101. Retrieved from http://vuir.vu.edu.au/24738/1/QSW%20final.pdf

Lynch, S. H. (2018). Looking at compassion fatigue differently: Application to family caregivers. American Journal of Health Education, 49(1), 9-11.

Pehlivan, T., & Güner, P. (2018). Compassion fatigue: The known and unknown. Journal of Psychiatric Nursing/Psikiyatri Hemsireleri Dernegi, 9(2). Retrieved from https://www.journalagent.com/phd/pdfs/PHD-25582-REVIEW-PEHLIVAN%5BA%5D.pdf

Pelon, S. B. (2017). Compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction in hospice social work. Journal of social work in end-of-life & palliative care, 13(2-3), 134-150.

Sheppard, K. (2016). Compassion fatigue: Are you at risk. American Nurse Today, 11(1), 53-55. Retrieved from https://www.americannursetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ant1-Compassion-Fatigue-1222.pdf

Wagaman, M. A., Geiger, J. M., Shockley, C., & Segal, E. A. (2015). The role of empathy in burnout, compassion satisfaction, and secondary traumatic stress among social workers. Social work, 60(3), 201-209.

Yi, J., Kim, J., Akter, J., Molloy, J. K., Ah Kim, M., & Frazier, K. (2018). Pediatric oncology social workers’ experience of compassion fatigue. Journal of psychosocial oncology, 36(6), 667-680. Yi, J., Kim, M. A., Choi, K., Kim, S., & O’Connor, A. (2018). When does compassion fatigue hit social workers? Caring for oncology patients in Korea. Qualitative Social Work, 17(3), 337-354.

Respectful commenting is a prerequisite for reconciliation.

Last week Nicole Peters started a petition on change.org to discuss the appropriateness of paying for parking at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) for Secwempec students.

The fourth-year TRU social work student was inspired by the October 2019 announcement of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) to grant free tuition to local Indigenous students and decided to choose a social action research route for the final social policy assignment. At UNBC members of the Lheidli T’enneh Nation can now earn an undergraduate degree at no cost. It’s a common misconception that all Indigenous students in Canada get free tuition (CBC, 2019). The Northern Promise Partnership was described as “a meaningful response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to make education more accessible for Indigenous people” (Nielsen, 2019, para 2). UNBC’s Prince George campus is Lheidli T’enneh territory. 

Instead of focusing on the free tuition, Peters in the petition asked TRU to stop charging Secwepemc students parking fees.  The campuses of Thompson Rivers University are located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwepemc Nation within Secwepemcul’ecw. By eliminating parking fees for Indigenous students, TRU can strengthen its efforts to indigenize its campuses and promote reconciliation.

The petition in one week received more than 400 signatures and gathered media attention that resulted in both Kamloops Matters and Kamloops BC Now writing articles about the petition. Unfortunately, the media coverage also resulted in many inappropriate comments that the online community expressed towards the petition. Nicole shared with Doug Herbert from CBC Daybreak Kamloops: “[People are] posting comments that are just blatantly racist. Some of the things that are being said [are] awful. Christopher Foulds wrote an op-ed in Kamloops This Week and wondered why “people who would otherwise not even think of uttering such offensive garbage face to face find the courage behind the social media screen to vomit forth the most vile filth imaginable”?(Foulds, 2019)

It is incredibly disappointing to read comments that show disrespect, lack of awareness, and inability to engage in meaningful conversation. It is critically important that those who post online will not hide against their screens and use inappropriate language to allow meaningful dialogue to occur. Online commentators should engage in open dialogue, ask questions, stay curious and learn about challenges that Indigenous People face in Canada instead of posting hurtful comments. When I connected with Nicole we discussed some ways to move forward, and we need your help:

  1. Please share/sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/thompson-rivers-university-stop-charging-secwepemc-students-parking-at-thompson-rivers-university-80b6116b-7ec6-47c9-923f-1e0968cb5788
  2. Please help Nicole to find an organization (e.g.TRUSU Equity Committee) that can take this petition to the next level. It is incredibly overwhelming and discouraging when voicing concerns to receive disrespectful responses.

Please feel free to add other ways to promote respectful dialogue that values diverse opinions and allow the exchange of ideas using social action writing tools (petitions, op-eds, letters to the editors).  Students should feel safe to express their views in public and not being silenced when they raise points that they are passionate about researching. Having diverse voices helps to create adequate, accessible, affordable, acceptable social policy in Canada for groups who historically have been excluded from the decision-making process.

@EMPR SOCIAL WORK

Sasha Kondrashov and Ani Dingamtar

What is “empowerment”?

Empowerment originated from the Latin verb for power, potere, which means, ‘to be able’ and is also linked to the word ‘potent’ meaning powerful, cogent, persuasive and having or exercising a great influence (Rodwell, 1996). Its prefix ‘em’ means ‘cause to be or provide with’ (cited in Abdoli et.al, 2011). The suffix ‘ment’ is defined as a result, act or process and thus by adding the suffix ‘ment’ to the verb ’empower’, empowerment becomes a noun defined as the process or result of empowering (Rodwell, 1996). Empowerment is individually determined (McIntosh, 2016), and can be seen as a helping process, a partnership valuing self and others, mutual decision making, and freedom to make choices and accept responsibility (Rodwell, 1996).

How can social workers empower themselves?

Empowerment is a process. When one understands how the process works, they can empower themselves daily (Salzman, 1994). Social workers can empower themselves individually and collectively through the use of support groups, caucuses of professional organizations, social media and other forms of groups to process their experiences, build coalitions with each other, strategize for the next steps, and/or to take actions to fight against oppression and discrimination (Sakamoto, 2005).

What is the Empower Social Worker Campaign? #EMPRsocialwork

Similar to the mission of the Wikimedia Foundation ‘‘to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally’’ (Botella et.al, 2012) Empower Social Worker campaign’s mission is to engage social workers and allies around the world to collectively create a list of individual empowerment tools through the use of images and story-telling  and to disseminate them effectively among social work communities of practice.

We plan to achieve our mission by running the social media campaign to introduce some very successful empowerment tools that social workers and allies use around the world to empower themselves. Those tools can assist current social work students and future social workers to practice social work and stay empowered. Empowerment tools are personal growth activities that are used over time to create a sense of self-worth, personal and professional accountability, and generate power within an individual.

Why Empower Social Worker (ESW)?

Empowerment on an individual level should be considered an important step to strengthening social work practices, connecting with communities, reducing the sense of powerlessness, which, in turn, would help social workers and allies to link their critical consciousness and self-actualization to work toward social justice (Sakamoto, 2005).

We argue that #EMPRsocialwork campaign is crucial because it helps social workers and allies to maintain personal and professional power to effectively perform their multiple roles in different practice contexts. Empowered social workers are more effective in challenging oppression and privilege and affecting positive changes at different levels (Sakamoto, 2005).

How to join the campaign and share what empowerment means to you as a professional social worker?

#EMPRsocialwork is a space to encourage social workers and allies to share their stories and tools that empower them in their fields of practice.

Join the campaign in 4 steps:

  1. Find and Follow us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook
  2. Think about the tool that empowers you to practice social work
  3. Share an image and provide the brief story of that tool on social media using #EMPRsocialwork
  4. Invite your social work friends and allies to follow the campaign  and challenge them to share their empowerment tools

References

Abdoli, S., Ashktorab, T., Ahmadi, F., Parvizy, S., & Dunning, T. (2011). Religion, faith and the empowerment process: Stories of Iranian people with diabetes. International journal of nursing practice17(3), 289-298.

McIntosh, D. (2016). Empowering clients means empowering ourselves first. Retrieved from http://www.socialworker.com/extras/social-work-month-project-2016/empowering-clients-means-empowering-ourselves-first/

Botella, C., Riva, G., Gaggioli, A., Wiederhold, B. K., Alcaniz, M., & Baños, R. M. (2012). The present and future of positive technologies. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 78–84.

Rodwell, C. M. (1996). An analysis of the concept of empowerment. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 23(2), 305–313.

Sakamoto, I. (2005). Use of critical consciousness in anti-oppressive social work practice: Disentangling power dynamics at personal and structural levels. British Journal of Social Work, 35(4), 435–452.

Salzman, J. (1994). Self-empowerment: Achieving your potential through self-awareness. Women in Business, 46(3), 24-27.