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Compassion fatigue and resilience: a qualitative analysis of social work practice
journal contributionposted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by M Kapoulitsas, Tim CorcoranTim Corcoran
Compassion fatigue is a term used to describe behaviour and emotions experienced by those who help people who have experienced trauma. It is viewed as a potential consequence of stress related to such exposure and is understood to be influenced by the practitioner’s empathic response. The aims of this study were to obtain greater understanding of social workers experience of working with distressed clients; examine what develops personal, professional and organisational resilience; and explore ways in which workers can be better protected from compassion fatigue. The research design was qualitative using semi-structured interviews involving six social workers presently working with distressed clients or clients known to have experienced distress. Four major themes were identified using thematic analysis: (i) the complexities of social work, (ii) supportive and unsupportive contexts, (iii) promoting personal well-being/selfprotection and (iv) resilience as a changing systemic and complex process. The findings provide important insights into the participants’ experiences of working with distressed clients and, more specifically, their experience of compassion fatigue and stories of resilience. The research provides clear direction for future research at organisational, educational and interpersonal levels.