This article was first published on KSL.com
I'm a social worker and am struggling to find the emotional energy to deal with the serious problems and people I deal with at work — and have anything left for my family at night. I feel run down, less confident and my patience with my family is running thin. I think I’m burned out. Do you have any advice since you are also dealing with people problems on a daily basis? How can I keep giving to others and not get so drained?
You are not alone on this one. To help me answer your question I called on Marette Monson, LCSW, an expert with “compassion fatigue.” This kind of serious burnout is a common problem with helping professionals of all types, including police officers, firefighters and therapists. Compassion fatigue also happens to individual citizens who are caregivers, parents or who have demanding church callings.
A 2009 survey by the American Psychological Association (Nursing and Health Sciences (2014), 16, 3–10.) reported that psychologists had depression at rates three times greater than the population they serve. Another study (Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, Vol. 23, No. 3, May 2010, 319_33) showed 100 percent of humanitarian aid workers reported symptoms of compassion fatigue. Health care workers, veterinarians and police officers had similar statistics. It is also difficult for helping professionals and caregivers to get help so they can continue to do the work they love. Most helping professionals face a stigma when or if they ask for help, and there are very few places in the community where they can go.
Monson has opened the Center for Counseling Excellence here in Utah, and it is one of the only places in the United States where helping professionals can go for compassion fatigue treatment. She learned the accelerated recovery technique (ARP) from the nation’s leading expert, Dr. Eric Gentry, who created it to help professionals and others struggling with burnout. The ARP is much more than just tips on self-care to prevent the problems. It is a method for treating those who are experiencing compassion fatigue and it helps them recover and get their energy and motivation back.
Susan Gleason, LCSW, who also suffered from compassion fatigue, said, “I want to make sure people know about compassion fatigue before they are right in the middle of it. When I was deep in compassion fatigue, I was losing weight, became horribly paranoid, and was acting in childish ways I would have never done in the past. I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what to do about it. By then, it was so pervasive that I couldn’t have figured out how to get out of it on my own. It’s not just knowing about it, but also being able to prevent it from going too far. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms right now, you need to be able to see it happening in yourself or other people, because they won’t be able to heal themselves.”
Here is a link to a compassion fatigue checklist from Gleason, which may help you understand the symptoms to watch for. Go through it and see if the symptoms sound familiar.
Then, here are some tips from Monson, Gleason and me for preventing and overcoming compassion fatigue:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.