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Preventing, managing and treating compassion fatigue

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Francis Vu, Patrick Bodenmann

In the helping and social professions, professionals are usually expected to use compassion and empathy when engaging with traumatised and suffering individuals, although that it may require a “cost of caring”. In the literature, the psychological and physical negative effects resulting from such an empathic and compassionate engagement is referred as “compassion fatigue”. Over the last two decades, a rising number of interventions to mitigate the risks of compassion fatigue have been advocated in the literature. The main purpose of this article is to provide a critical appraisal and review of the existing recommendations to combat compassion fatigue. A systematic review of the literature shows that compassion fatigue can be combated among helping and social organisations
and professionals, which requires increasing their (self-)awareness of occupational hazards through education, debriefings and supervisions, and equipping them with adequate knowledge and skills that will enhance their coping and resiliency resources. It also requires developing and nurturing self-care and self-management strategies, and promoting organisational and structural changes that will mitigate work environment constraints.