Empathy Fatigue: Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit of Professional Helpers OR From Empathy Fatigue to Empathy Resiliency. Mark A. Stebnicki, Ph.D., LPC, CRC, CCM Professor, Dept. of Rehab Studies East Carolina University www.ecu.edu/rehb. The More We Stress Together….
Empathy Fatigue: Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit of Professional HelpersORFrom Empathy Fatigue to Empathy Resiliency
Mark A. Stebnicki, Ph.D., LPC, CRC, CCM
Professor, Dept. of Rehab Studies
East Carolina University
Traumatic injury in the workplace
“Every time you heal someone, you give a piece of yourself away, until at one point you will need healing yourself”
* Shaman or Medicine Man/Woman in many indigenous cultures understood that in healing practices the healer sometimes must takes-on the pain and suffering of others while planting the seeds for transformation.
* Each personal transformation should bring about the necessary experiences for handling the next crisis so the mind, body, and spirit can be transformed.
“ A dynamic state of physical, psychological, emotional, social, occupational, and spiritual exhaustion that occurs on a continuum, resulting from the helpers’ own wounds that are continually revisited by their client’s life-stories of chronic illness, mental/physical disability, trauma, grief, and loss.”
Peripheral/ANS: Sympathetic-Parasympathetic Nervous
Answer: Zebras don’t have cumulative stress
“If you constantly mobilize energy, You never store it; Your muscles waste away; Your vascular system is under constant pressure; and constant Cortisol production turns off growth factors and can harm every system in the body…”
A study of 27,000 people in 50
different countries found that people with significant stress levels
DOUBLED THEIR CHANCE
OF HAVING A
(2004 Interheart study with 50 participating countries)
A negative shift in the way professionals view people they serve. A cumulative emotional exhaustion, depersonalizaiton, feelings of a lack of personal accomplishment resulting in a loss of compassion, genuineness, and concern for the patient.
Tired and out of energy
Emotionally out of control
Constantly negative thinking
Alone and disconnected
It is not necessarily the nature of the client’s stress, trauma, loss, grief, daily hassles, coping, or disability adjustment that creates a sense of EF for the professional; rather it is the professional’s perception towards that particular client’s; and the helper’s personality traits, states, and behavior that determines the response; which is determined by multiple factors that lead to a diminished capacity to listen, respond empathically, provide competent professional services…
As a professional helper I perceive myself to be…
6.Self-confident, optimistic, enjoy healthy self-esteem, and have an attitude of professionalism about my work.
7. Playful, humorous, have the ability to laugh at myself.
8. Curious, facilitate good interventions, have a desire to understand how things work in my client’s life, and consult with others when I need help.
9. Constantly learning from my past mistakes during therapy and from the mistakes that I see others make.
10. Flexible, and feel comfortable with things that are somewhat complex in my client’s life, and can adapt to various client behaviors and personalities.
11. Able to anticipate when my client will develop specific problems and I have confidence that I will know how to deal with the unexpected.
12. Able to personally deal with my client’s negative or dysfunction life patterns and the ambiguity or challenge this presents in my own life.
13. Non-judgmental, a good listener, possess good empathy with my clients, express my feelings and be able to “read” other people well.
14. Able to recover emotionally from my client’s losses and setbacks, and let-go of negative feelings that I may have and how to ask others for help.
15. Durable, keep on ticking after tough client sessions and possess a balanced and healthy fighting spirit.
16. Stronger and better after facilitating interventions with difficult clients issues.
17. Able to discover some meaning in my own life at the end of the day, even after hearing multiple client stories of stress, trauma, addiction, anxiety, and depression….
Empathy Fatigue Resiliency Quiz Scoring
75 + = Very Resilient!!
65-75 = Resilient more than most helpers.
55-65 = Slow to rebound- but adequate.
45-55 = Whoa- I’m struggling as a professional.
45 or less = Leave now and seek help!
1. Making conscious choices in life.
2. Power of Positive Thinking.
3. Take responsibility.
4. Internal locus of control.
5. Self motivate yourself.
6. Don’t fear trying-out new things.
7. Take control of your life.
8. Practice positive approaches to life.
Loss of concentration, lack of focus
Apathy, lacks meaning
in chosen profession
Preoccupation with avoiding job tasks
Feelings of exhaustion, lack of energy, sleep problems
Emotional roller coaster of highs and lows, feelings of being overwhelmed
Being on edge, very impatient
Feeling extremely cynical, bad sense of humor
Changes in eating and grooming habits, poor lifestyle management
rapid pulse, heartbeat
Increased illnesses due to lower immunities
Projection of anger or
Blame, increase in inter-
Poor communication skills with family, personal relationships
Loss of meaning and
purpose with self and
Decrease in spiritual
and religious activities
Loss of faith in higher Power, cynical with past faith and beliefs
Decrease in quantity
and quality of work
Low motivation, avoid
job tasks, increase in
Increase in mistakes
“While we were in counselor training, we were always told to “be competent professionals.” No one ever said exactly what that meant, or how to be a mental health professional. I guess we thought it meant being cool and calm under pressure, objective with our clients, and not to get easily rattled by “crazy persons.” But I did get rattled and upset at times- like the first time a client attempted suicide. Somehow I felt responsible and felt a mix of anxiety, anger, and sadness but I would be fighting any expression of those feelings to my colleagues because I knew that this was not the “professional thing to do.”
“Everyone else seemed to be handling things okay, which made me feel even worse- like a real failure- like someone who wasn’t cut-out for this kind of work. I didn’t dare say anything for fear people would see out how weak I really was. It wasn’t until much later in my career that I discovered that most everyone else was just as scared, sad, and angry as I was when it came to persons who have chronic and persistent mental health issue are those who have be traumatized”
Be Open to the Outcomes
Lack of Energy
Thoughts, Perceptions, Cognitions
Open and honest
Accept whatever comes to mind
Grammar- spelling fagetta-bout-it
Process is just for You