Caregiver Stress & Burnout
How do I know if I have burnout or vicarious trauma, and what can I do?
Christine Maslach (2003) described burnout as:
“a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people-work’ of some kind.” When we notice ourselves distancing emotionally from our clients, seeing them as their diagnosis rather than as individuals, and feeling that there is little we can do to impact the situation, no matter what we try – we may be sizzling our way toward burnout.
I believe that caregivers such as doulas, counsellors, social workers, medical clinicians, and frontline support staff of all varieties are actually more at risk of burnout and trauma than their clients. Not only do these individuals bear actual or virtual witness to countless events over time, they often firmly hold a passion-led vision of social justice and what “should” be, as opposed to what “is.” Caregivers bump into the reality-versus-values dilemma so often in their work as to feel psychically bruised.
After working in frontline and management roles for many years in rape/crisis care, addiction and mental health support for recently-homeless women and families, and family abuse prevention and treatment, I have had an interest (and occasional experience!) in burnout and vicarious trauma. I am consistently intrigued by the subtle ways that this emotional tug-of-war impacts our work. I believe that caregivers being care receivers is crucial to our abilities to provide ethical care to others.
In order to support my colleagues and to become part of the solution, rather than part of the legion of burned out and traumatized professionals, I offer one session at no cost to fellow professionals in the fields of birth work, psychotherapy, and non-profit front-line work. I have had this support returned to me many times over, and I believe that the village of care we create in collaborating in this way ripples out into a more peaceful community for everyone. If you are a care provider, please do not hesitate to contact me to make an appointment.