Trauma Therapists and Compassion Satisfaction

first_imgJay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhDCreative Commons [Flickr, Compassion International, March 16, 2008]Mental health professionals working with traumatized clients can experience excessive amounts of stress that may lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. The topic of compassion fatigue and burnout in military psychologist in a combat zone was discussed in a previous blog located, here.  In a recent publication, researchers Craig and Sprang [1] have included an often overlooked idea of compassion satisfaction as a possible outcome in their study of trauma therapists and compassion fatigue and burnout.What is compassion satisfaction?Compassion satisfaction is the feeling of gratification that can be derived from helping others or from care giving.  Compassion satisfaction is about helping others and deriving pleasure from knowing that you made a positive contribution to an individual’s well being.In this study, a national sample of 532 clinical social workers and clinical psychologists who identified themselves as “trauma specialists” completed surveys measuring compassion fatigue, burnout, and compassion satisfaction.  Additionally, the participants responded to a measure of the use of evidence-based therapy practices.  Other variables considered in this study included age, gender, licensure, clinical experience, type of work organization, trauma training, and percentage of PTSD clients.  Gender and age distributions of the sample were comparable to national averages for clinical social workers and psychologists.  The mean age for the sample was 53 years with 23 years of experience.  Only 62% of the social workers and psychologists reported that they had specialized training in treatment of traumatized individuals.  Key findings of the study included:Consistent with previous research, caseloads with a high percentage of traumatized clients may increase the risk for compassion fatigue and burnout.Clinical experience was not a predictor of compassion fatigue (when considering all factors listed above) but was a predictor of compassion satisfaction. Age was not a significant predictor of compassion fatigue or compassion satisfaction.Using evidence-based practices decreases the risk for compassion fatigue. Compassion satisfaction increased with use of evidence-based practices.A lack of training in trauma-specific therapies was associated with burnout in clinicians working with traumatized individuals.Overall, therapists who work with traumatized clients seem to be less vulnerable to burnout when they have received appropriate training in trauma treatment practices and are able to use them, and when they have a more balanced caseload related to trauma. Compassion satisfaction also seems to be a possible positive outcome among therapists who work with traumatized clients, and is also more likely for those who use evidence-based treatments, and for those who are more experienced practitioners.References[1] Craig, C. D., & Sprang, G. (2010). Compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout in a national sample of trauma treatment therapists. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 23(3), 319-339. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615800903085818This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.last_img