Sophie Miles


Week 6: Understanding Compassion Fatigue and Self-Care
Imagine two human services professionals, Jim and Carrie, who both work with traumatized interviewees on a daily basis. Some of these interviewees have been victims of abuse or rape, while others are homeless, suicidal, or addicted to drugs. Both Jim and Carrie are effective interviewers who develop deep rapport with their interviewees through empathy and caring. However, the months and years of listening to stories of pain, hardship, and crisis take their toll on these two professionals.
Jim begins to feel disillusioned about the world in general, wondering how society can allow such terrible things to happen to innocent, vulnerable people. He withdraws from his friends and family and starts spending most of his free time alone at bars and casinos. Carrie has frequent nightmares that resemble the traumatic experiences of some of her interviewees, and she has become increasingly fearful about her own family’s well-being. She no longer allows her children to play at their friends’ houses, and she had an expensive home security system installed.
What do both Jim and Carrie have in common? You will discover the answer this week. In this final week of Effective Human Services Interviewing, you will explore healthy strategies professionals can employ to relieve their own stress and anxiety. You also will explore the issue of compassion fatigue, examine your potential risk of developing compassion fatigue in your work as a human services professional, and develop a plan for self-care to mitigate this risk. Finally, you will explore your future role as an agent of social change and consider how your interviewing skills could affect that role.
By the end of this week, you should be able to:
· Analyze symptoms of compassion fatigue
· Apply self-care strategies for the prevention of compassion fatigue
· Apply strategies for becoming an effective human services professional
· Analyze the role of interviewing skills in promoting social change

Learning Resources
Required Readings

Alkema, K., Linton, J., & Davies, R. (2008). A study of the relationship between self-care, compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout among hospice professionals. Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care, 4(2), 101-119.

Fahy, A. (2007). The unbearable fatigue of compassion: Notes from a substance abuse counselor who dreams of working at Starbuck’s. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 199-205.

Foster-Fishman, P., Nowell, B., & Huilan, Y. (2007). Putting the system back into systems change: A framework for understanding and changing organizational and community systems. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(3/4), 197–215.

Griswold, J. (2010). Contemplative practices in human services education. New Directions for Community Colleges, 151, 65-75.

Han, M., & Chow, J. C. (2010). What changes MSW students’ view on the mission of social work? Social Work Education, 29(2), 205–221.

World Health Organization. (2011). Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from
· Chapter 4, “Caring for Yourself and Your Colleagues”

Optional Resource

Healthy Caregiving LLC. (2010). Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project. Retrieved from


Discussion 1: Compassion Fatigue
When you watch a disaster film or read a tragic novel, feelings of fear or anxiety might come over you as you empathize with the characters going through the experience. It is a natural human response to empathize with others and to feel distressed when observing or learning about trauma. When a person is exposed to individuals in distress on an ongoing basis, however, he or she might develop a condition known as compassion fatigue.
Many types of professionals are at risk of suffering compassion fatigue, including police officers, emergency workers, and health care workers. Human services professionals run the risk of developing compassion fatigue because the nature of human services work involves interactions, interviews, and collaboration with interviewees who have experienced trauma, abuse, crises, and other hardships.
In this Discussion, you will consider symptoms of compassion fatigue to which you might be susceptible. Then, you will create a plan for self-care to mitigate your risk of developing compassion fatigue in your work as a human services professional.

To prepare for this Discussion:  

· Review the information found in the articles titled “A Study of the Relationship Between Self-Care, Compassion Satisfaction, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout Among Hospice Professionals,” “The Unbearable Fatigue of Compassion: Notes from a Substance Abuse Counselor who Dreams of Working at Starbuck’s,” and “Contemplative Practices in Human Services Education.” Review the report, Psychological First Aid: Guide for Field Workers. Focus on Chapter 4, “Caring for Yourself and Your Colleagues.”
· After reviewing the information, identify two symptoms of compassion fatigue to which you believe you might be susceptible in your work as a human services professional. Consider what self-care strategies you might employ to prevent compassion fatigue.

With these thoughts in mind:

By Day 3
· Post by Day 3 a description of at least two symptoms of compassion fatigue that you might experience as a result of interviewing individuals in distress. Then, briefly describe two self-care strategies that you might employ to prevent compassion fatigue and explain how and why they might work.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.


Discussion 2: Social Change
As you may recall from Week 1 of this course, the purpose of interviewing in the human services profession is to gather information from interviewees about their perceptions, situations, strengths, and struggles. This information is instrumental to human services because it provides insight into individuals’ needs and challenges, and it allows professionals to determine the most appropriate resources and strategies for assistance. Also, the information gathered through interviewing can be a valuable tool in creating social change. You might ask how helping individuals can affect societal change. In this Discussion, you will explore the connection between human services interviewing and social change. You also will consider how the skills and effective interviewing strategies you have studied in this course might contribute to your role as an agent of social change.

To prepare for this Discussion:  

· Review the information in the articles “Putting the System Back into Systems Change” and “What Changes MSW Students’ View on the Mission of Social Work?” found in the Learning Resources for this week. Focus on the explanation of systems thinking and the motivations of those in the human services profession for pursuing this line of work. Consider how you, as a human services professional, could help create social change through your interactions with others.
· Reflect on how you could use interviewing skills in promoting social change.

With these thoughts in mind:

By Day 4
· Post by Day 4 a description of two effective interviewing skills or strategies about which you learned in this course. Then explain how each skill or strategy will allow you to be more effective in your work as a human services professional. Finally, explain the role of interviewing skills in promoting social change. Be specific in your response and provide examples.

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