Reply to "Vicarious Trauma/Secondary Trauma/Compassion Fatigue"

Compassion Fatigue is the emotional strain/cost for the helper (e.g., social worker, mental health therapist, police officers, teachers, etc.) of working with those in crisis, suffering, and/or with traumatic experiences and toxic stress.  Compassion Fatigue has two interrelated but distinct manifestations, that can occur together or apart: Burnout and Secondary/Vicarious Trauma.  Burnout is a three phase process where in the helper comes to experience emotional exhaustion, detachment and a reduced sense of accomplishment.  Often, at the root of burnout are factors related to the organization, agency, and/or profession (e.g., low wages, confusing policies, no support).  Eventually those experiencing burnout may report a lack of caring about the work as a result.  Vicarious trauma is the trauma the helper is exposed to as a a helper and secondary traumatic stress are the signs and symptoms of this.  The biggest and most significant difference between Burnout and STS is Burnout is preventable and STS is an inevitable result of working with those in need.  For the helper, the root of the helper's trauma is trauma-related and is an unfortunate and inevitable cost of working those experiencing extreme stress.  Most of what I have to come to know about Compassion Fatigue comes from the work of Dr. Charles Figley and Dr. Pearlman, who are experts on the topic.

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