Secondary traumatic stress and staff well-being: understanding compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in therapeutic care – Practice guide

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Jun 2022

Written by Noel Macnamara

This guide has been developed to support organisational congruence and in the provision of trauma informed therapeutic care and the critical need for a well-supported, capable, and stable staff group to deliver this vision. Effective therapeutic care is situated within a relationship-based approach to practice. Thus, the health and well-being of staff involved in this work are central to their ability to engage in relationships of care that have therapeutic intent. This guide provides staff and managers with information about secondary traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout. It describes organisational, client-related, and personal risk and protective factors and provides strategies for assessing and addressing staff support and well-being.

 

Key Messages

  • The care of children and young people who have experienced trauma is complex and challenging work.
  • The development of secondary traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout is recognised as a common occupational hazard for staff and carers looking after traumatised children and
    young people.
  • Organisational variables such as lack of role clarity and high client demands combined with insufficient supervision with little feedback and reduced opportunity to participate in decision making can lead to increased risk of burnout among staff and carers.
  • There are many personal risks and protective factors that play an important role in the susceptibility for burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and vicarious trauma.
  • Vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and secondary traumatic stress can be resolved successfully with self-care practices and/or professional support should staff, and carers experience them.
  • There are a range of effective strategies that organisations and individuals can be used to assess and support staff well-being.

 

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