Breaking the Stigma: Understanding Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma for Front Line Workers


Lambia Karitsiotis, BSc & Sheila Tallon, MSW, RSW | September 20 | 10:15-11:15 AM

Topic: Direct Service | Knowledge Level: Intermediate | Location: TBD

The helping field has gradually begun to recognize that workers are profoundly affected by the work they do, whether by direct exposure to a traumatic event (for example, working as a paramedic, nurse, or police officer); secondary exposure (hearing clients talk about trauma they have experienced, helping people who have just been victimized); or the full gamut in between such as working with clients who are chronically in despair. Compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma have been described as “the cost of caring” for others in emotional pain and can strike the most dedicated worker. Ironically, helpers who are burned out, worn down, fatigued and traumatized tend to work more and work harder. As a result, they go further and further down a path that can lead to serious physical and mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, chronic pain, other stress related illnesses, and even suicide. Although compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are not preventable, they can be mitigated, transformed and treated. This presentation focuses on assisting workers and organizational supervisors to identify different forms of work-related trauma and occupational stress injuries by learning proper debriefing techniques and learning how to build resiliency before taking time off work. With over 30 years of combined experience working with a traumatized population, the presenters offer an experience-based, real-life centered approach to their seminar and offer a presentation that is both solution-driven and self-directing, encouraging participants to self-reflect on their own work-life balance.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Identify and define different occupational stress injuries

·  Identify and review risk factors

·  Discuss steps to build resiliency

·  Discuss the mental health continuum

·  Describe organizational practices to offer support

About the Presenters