Self care tips for supporters and practitioners
- Hearing someone's story of trauma can be challenging and may have an impact on you;
- It is important to take care of yourself;
- Remember, self care is selfless!
Anyone who is exposed to the trauma of others is at risk of experiencing vicarious trauma.
Vicarious trauma is the impact on someone's central psychological needs and world view when they hear stories of trauma.
Workers who hear or read about trauma such as sexual assault or family violence are at risk of vicarious trauma. So are supporters of people who have experienced violence.
This can be scary but there are things you can do to take care of yourself.
What is self care?
Self care means deliberate activities and behaviours which reduce stress and enhance (or maintain) well-being.
This is especially important if you regularly hear stories about sexual assault or domestic violence in the course of your work.
Remember, self care is selfless! It takes a lot of energy and strength to support someone who has experienced trauma, taking care of yourself will help you take care of them.
There are two types of self care:
- Day to day self care (whatever makes you happy!)
- Vicarious trauma self care (specific and targeted to offset the impacts of vicarious trauma).
Both are very important.
So, when it comes to offsetting the impacts of vicarious trauma, what works?
- Exercise can assist to reduce stress levels, improve concentration, increase energy and fitness.
- Deep breathing can induce calmness and relaxation.
- Massage, meditation, and mindfulness can improve mood, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress.
- Relaxation therapy can help reduce somatic symptoms (such as headaches and pains).
- Engaging in activities that one enjoys, laughing, and spending time with loved ones can help you feel grounded, have fun, and remind you who you are outside of work.
- Activities which facilitate self-reflection and self-awareness are essential in order to find a balance and draw a line between work and their personal life.
Day to day self care for professionals:
Researchers in the field of self-care have developed a number of models to assist psychologists and other mental health professionals to establish and maintain effective self-care practices. Models for consideration include:
- Leaving it at the Office: A Guide to Psychotherapist Self-Care (2007). by John C. Norcross and James D. Guy, Jr.
- Lifestyle and Mental Health (2011). by Roger Walsh.
- Ethics, Self-Care and Well-Being for Psychologists: Reenvisioning the Stress-Distress Continuum (2012). by Erica H. Wise, Matthew A. Hersh, Clare M. Gibson
Offsetting the impacts of vicarious trauma:
A vicarious trauma self care plan should be:
- Specific; it needs to be tailored for the individual and take into account their impacts.
- Reviewed; discuss your self care plan regularly with your counsellor/supervisor - is it still working? Is it helping?
- Proactive; monitor impacts and speak with your supervisor as soon as you notice them.
- Evidence based.
For more information about self-care planning for professionals, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 8585 0333 and ask to speak to the professional services team.
If you would like to speak directly to a counsellor, get in touch: