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By On June 26th, 2006

Compassion Fatigue: When Helping Hurts

Charles R. Figley, founder of Figley Institute of Tallahassee, recently presented an informative talk entitled “When Helping Hurts” at a conference. The focus of the talk surrounded compassion fatigue, in my opinion a greatly overlooked subject matter for both those involved in professional counseling as well as those in ministry. The presentation was based on over ten years of research regarding compassion fatigue.

Dr. Figley recalled that over his thirty plus years in the field many of his colleagues left their jobs, “not because of a lack of satisfaction with their jobs… or because of too much stress, not enough pay. But what they were really talking about was the toxicity of the work.” It is not unusual for professionals in the field of mental health and related fields to suffer emotionally on behalf of those that they are attempting to treat. In many cases, mental health professionals may feel a direct responsibility for the recovery of their patients. Here is an excerpt from Web MD of an interview with Dr. Figley regarding compassion fatigue.

“The helper, in contrast to the person(s) being helped, is traumatized or suffers through the helper’s own efforts to empathize and he compassionate. Often this leads to poor self care and extreme self sacrifice in the process of helping. Together, this leads to compassion fatigue and symptoms similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

Click here to read “Compassion Fatigue: An Expert Interview With Charles R. Figley, MS, PhD”

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