Who can we help?
Since caregivers use empathy to help their clients heal, empathy can become exhausted even if the caregiver is practicing good self-care and spending time participating in enjoyable activities. The caregiver may also become traumatized by hearing the client’s detailed descriptions of their trauma, and burnout can leave the caregiver unable to reach out for help for fear of criticism, judgement, and vulnerability. This can become compounded when the professional becomes overly confident in their own abilities to help, and assesses other professionals as less capable.
If you are feeling tension, numbing, avoidance of reminders of trauma, or consistently upset you may have become traumatized through caring.
Are you feeling alone in personal relationships?
Is your work monotonous and without feelings of mastery?
Is your home life feeling distant and detached?
Do you have poor relations with your boss and coworkers?
Are you often absent from work?
Do you have increased blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, or depressed mood?
Are you a helper to people in emotional pain?
Are you showing signs of stress such as lapses in concentration and irritability?
Do you find that when the stress of helping becomes overwhelming you tend to withdraw from family, colleagues, and even clients?
Secondary traumatic stress or compassion fatigue characterized by burnout, dissatisfaction at work and home, countertransference, or cumulative emotional vulnerability.
If we do not notice these symptoms, we may begin to complain, and neglect ourselves and family. We may even begin to become angry at people, calling others incompetent, and forget our sense of humour and fun.
Often we may not want to seek help locally because of the implications to our careers.
At Spirit Lake Therapy we provide confidential therapy that will not result in private information being stored with other helpers in your home community.
Compassion fatigue begins with commitment, enthusiasm, and a willing ness to go further than other employees and even volunteer! Next, we may tire and notice that we begin to slow down, avoid clients, become cynical of coworkers, use humour inappropriately, and have lapses in concentration. We distance ourselves and clients become sources of irritation rather than individuals in need of our empathy.
Since we are helpers at heart we may first neglect ourselves and then family, friends, and clients. We will put up boundaries to block our pain, sadness, and loneliness. If we continue without help we may begin working on auto pilot, disconnected from our thoughts, feelings, and self. We do not feel close to others and forget that we once had compassion and understanding. We lose meaning and value and operate below our values and beliefs. Once overwhelmed we are at risk of leaving work and secondary illnesses.
If you are a helper who is finding stressors at work piling up, or if you want to learn self-care to decrease your risk of becoming overwhelmed we can help.
Here’s what we do…….
We can start with an assessment of possible risk factors for burnout. The compassion fatigue interview is an important first step in listening to the helper’s narrative and professional history in order to understand the difficulties experienced at work. A graphic time line is constructed where important memories that have caused anxiety are mapped to examine how they have negatively affected present day functioning. Learning, self-monitoring, and anxiety reduction strategies are key to reworking the memories and exposure is key to desensitize the helper. Thought logs are constructed to identify and dispute negative automatic thoughts and beliefs about self, and the strengths are highlighted in an effort to teach the helper to become their own positive supervisor. Coping, conflict resolution, and stress management skills are used to increase resiliency and prevention of relapse, and personal functioning examined. We use the accelerated recovery program (ARP) to help caregivers learn to recognize their triggers and early warning signs and master mindfulness, grounding and containment skills so that conflicts with self and others are resolved with a focus on wellness and self-care. The emotional trauma caused by re-experiencing our clients’ pain is healed and the ability to recognize future relapses generalized into daily work life.
The sooner we begin toward recovery the sooner you can surpass your expectations to help others!