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Compassion Fatigue Resiliency – A New Attitude

Compassion Fatigue Treatment & Resiliency – Programs with Legs: The ARP, CFST & CF Resiliency Training

J. ERIC GENTRY & ANNA B. BARANOWSKY (2013)

Yesterday I spent several hours walking through the fluffy snow with my dog. It was a well-deserved break from a demanding schedule. A few hours to decompress in quiet, engaged in an activity that I know works to relax my body and soothe my mind. But at the end of the walk, I was not entirely settled. Knowing this, reminds me of the very delicate balance we all live. I pride myself in knowing the edge of my strain and when it begins to feel like stress and what I can do to accommodate to the load. But what happens when we tip over in a world shattered by trauma or where too many things have gone wrong too quickly and we cannot regain our balance fast enough. In those times the demands are so acute that finding calm is not an easy goal (Baranowsky & Lauer, 2012). Even the best of us strain at the edges when our internal resources simply do not provide enough balm to deal with the last client who we did not help enough, or the emotional weight of a story with too many painful edges or familiar pain.

We have journeyed a long way since 1997 when we first developed the Accelerated Recovery Program for Compassion Fatigue (Gentry, Baranowsky & Dunning, 2002). The ARP was inspired by Figley’s (1995) pivotal release of “Compassion Fatigue as Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder”. At that early stage of research and reflection on this new construct, helpers in every profession rallied around the idea that there could be an emotional cost to care giving work. It spoke loudly to those who struggled with the gravitas of caring for those who were seriously injured, emotionally scarred or devastated by illness or loss.

Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Traumatic Stress, Burnout, Vicarious Traumatization are all terms that help us appreciate the deep impact of working with people who have faced terrible things (Najjar et al. 2009; Devilly, Wright, & Varker, 2009). Compassion Fatigue is an experience of secondary wounding in caring for trauma survivors that leaves the helper feeling as if they faced the injury on a personal level. Emergency responders, mental health practitioners, family practitioners, lawyers, journalists, librarians, veterinarians, nurses, red cross volunteers and every hero who stands beside a man, woman, child or animal who has faced tragedy and trauma personally can experience Compassion Fatigue.

(Rank, Zaparanick & Gentry, 2009; Meadors, et.al., 2009).

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