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” Compassion fatigue ” – coping with secondary traumatic stress.

There is a cost to caring. Professionals who listen to clients’ stories of fear, pain and suffering may feel similar fear, pain and suffering because they care. Simply the knowledge that a loved one has been exposed to a traumatic event can be traumatising – in this respect trauma can sometimes be contagious. The consequence of this process is that trauma therapy profoundly changes the therapist. These changes are both inspiring and disturbing, involving gains and losses. Traumatology literature usually excludes those who have been traumatised indirectly; thus this aspect is specifically explored in this article. Terminology like compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, burnout, countertransference, and vicarious traumatisation, are explored. The importance of compassion satisfaction, a team ap­proach and supervision is also highlighted. A list of typical character­istics of compassion fatigue is provided, as well as practical guidelines in dealing with and preventing this problem. Certain pastoral-theo­logical perspectives concerning this theme are also discussed.

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