Within psychological literature various terms exist to describe the emotional difficulties experienced by individuals working in helping professions. These terms include, but are not limited to, secondary trauma, vicarious trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is the focus of this literature review, however unfortunately there is little consensus over what specifically does and does not constitute compassion fatigue. For the purposes of this literature review compassion fatigue is, as suggested by Adams, Boscarino and Figley (2006), understood as incorporating all these terms and is thus defined as:
“The formal caregiver’s reduced capacity or interest in being empathetic or bearing the suffering of clients and is the natural consequent behaviours and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing events experienced or suffered by a person.”
The term ‘compassion fatigue’ was identified by Figley in 1995 and since then has received increased attention (Figley, 1995). When Figley (1995) identified compassion fatigue he also outlined an etiological model of its development. This model includes a number of external (i.e. exposure to client, life disruptions) and internal (i.e. empathic ability, residual compassion stress) factors that are suggested to bring one closer to the experience of compassion fatigue. It has been theorized that compassion fatigue is an inevitable risk of empathetic involvement with individuals exposed to trauma (Valent, 2002).
Symptoms of compassion fatigued include an array of emotional (apathy, emotional numbing), somatic (decreased concentration, hyper arousal), and behavioural (avoidance, over involvement, substance abuse) changes (Fahy, 2007; Reese, 2008; Valent, 2002). Research suggestions that compassion fatigue and its symptoms are widespread amongst mental health professionals (Barnett et al., 2007)
Craig & Sprang (2010) investigated the risk factors and preventative strategies for compassion fatigue by interviewing 532 clinicians in the helping field. The results of this study suggest that younger, less experienced clinicians, and clinicians who do not use evidence-based practices are more likely to experience compassion fatigue. A meta-analysis conducted by Bride (2004) suggests that it is the level of trauma one is exposed to in one’s client(s) increases the risk of compassion fatigue.
Strategies suggested to decrease one’s risk of developing compassion fatigue include increased awareness of compassion fatigue and self-monitoring, which ensures that signs and symptoms are noticed (Bride, Radey, & Figley, 2007). Such increased awareness has been documented as being helpful and preventative of compassion fatigue (Campbell, 2007). Engaging in support groups, and maintaining adequate self-care (both physical and mental) have also been suggested as preventative measures (Reese, 2008; Valent, 2002). In addition to the outlined prevention strategies, it has been recommended that professionals currently suffering from compassion fatigue undergo personal therapy, develop anxiety management strategies, and develop a firm understanding of their professional abilities and limits through increased supervision (Valent, 2002; Gentry, Baranowsky, and Dunning, 2002). Barnett et al. (2007) argue that it is a practitioner's ethical obligation to engage in such preventative strategies in order to ensure that their clients receive quality care.
Furthermore, an increased awareness of compassion fatigue and acceptance of this within the helping field will help alleviate the stigma associated with taking time for self-care (Gentry, Baranowsky, and Dunning, 2002); Barnett, et al. 2007).
References

Adams, R. E., Boscarino, J. A., & Figley, C. R. (2006). Compassion fatigue and psychological distress among social workers: A validation study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 103-108.
Barnett, J.E., Baker, E.K., Elman, N.S., & Schoener, G.R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 603-612.
Bride, B. E. (2004). The Impact of Providing Psychosocial Services to Traumatized Populations. Stress, Trauma and Crisis: An International Journal, 7(1), 29-46.
Bride, B. E., Radey, M., & Figley, C. R. (2007). Measuring compassion fatigue. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 155-163.
Campbell, L. (2007). Utilizing compassion fatigue education in Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 165-171.
Craig, C. D., & Sprang, G. (2010). Compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout in a national sample of trauma treatment therapists. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 23(3), 20.
Fahy, A. (2007). The unbearable fatigue of compassion: Notes from a substance abuse counselor who dreams of working at Starbucks. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 199-205.
Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion Fatigue: Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in Those Who Treat the Traumatized. London.
Gentry, J.E., Baranowsky, A.B., & Dunning, K. (2002). The accelerated recovery program (ARP) for compassion fatigue. In Figley, C.R. (E.d.), Treating Compassion Fatigue (pp. 123-138). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
Reese, M. (2008, May 2008). Compassion Fatigue. Faith and Therapy, 2, 4.
Valent, P. (2002). Diagnosis and treatment of helper stresses, traumas, and illness. In Figley, C.R. (E.d.), Treating Compassion Fatigue (pp. 17-37). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.


Group discussion topics
Within psychological literature various terms exist to describe the emotional difficulties experienced by individuals working in the helping profession. These terms include, but are not limited to, secondary trauma, vicarious trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue. The term compassion fatigue is the focus of this literature review, however unfortunately there is little consensus over what specifically does and does not constitute compassion fatigue. For the purposes of this literature review compassion fatigue is, as suggested by Adams, Boscarino and Figley (2006), understood as incorporating all these terms and is thus defined as: “The formal caregiver’s reduced capacity or interest in being empathetic or bearing the suffering of clients and is the natural consequent behaviours and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing events experienced or suffered by a person.”
The term ‘compassion fatigue’ was identified by Figley in 1995 and since then has received increased attention (Figley, 1995). When Figley (1995) identified compassion fatigue he also outlined an etiological model of its development. This model includes a number of external (ie. exposure to client, life disruptions) and internal (ie. empathic ability, residual compassion stress) factors that are suggested to bring one closer to the experience of compassion fatigue. It has been theorized that compassion fatigue is an inevitable risk of empathetic involvement with individuals exposed to trauma (Valent, 2002).
Symptoms of compassion fatigued include an array of emotional (apathy, emotional numbing), somatic (decreased concentration, hyper arousal), and behavioural (avoidance, over involvement, substance abuse) changes (Fahy, 2007; Reese, 2008; Valent, 2002). Research has demonstrated that compassion fatigue and it's symptoms are widespread amongst mental health professionals (Barnett et al., 2007)
A study conducting by (Craig & Sprang, 2010) investigated the risk factors and preventative strategies implemented by 532 clinicians in the helping field. The results of this study suggested that younger, less experienced clinicians, clinicians who have experience trauma themselves, and clinicians who are exposed to many “PTSD” clients are more likely to experience trauma themselves. Bride's (2004) meta-analysis, which considered 15 studies conducted on clinicians working with traumatized populations, suggests that it is the level of traumatized clients that increases risk of compassion fatigue rather than the length of exposure.
Preventative strategies include increased awareness of compassion fatigue and self-monitoring to ensure that signs and symptoms are noticed (Bride, Radey, & Figley, 2007). Such increased awareness has been documented as being helpful and preventative of compassion fatigue (Campbell, 2007). Engaging in support groups, and maintaining adequate self-care (both physical and mental) as means of preventing compassion fatigue have also been suggested as preventative measures (Reese, 2008; Valent, 2002). Barnett et al. (2007) argue that it is a practitioner's ethical obligation to engage in such preventative strategies in order to ensure that their clients receive quality care.
More specifically, education and desensitization techniques that target traumatic stressors are also suggested preventative strategies (Figley, 1995). Also, specific intervention such as motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, and harm reduction therapies may be less likely to lead to compassion fatigue (Fahy, 2007).
Furthermore, an increased awareness of compassion fatigue and acceptance of this within the helping field will help alleviate the stigma associated with taking time for selfcare (Gentry, Baranowsky, and Dunning, 2002); Barnett, et al. 2007).
In addition to the outlined prevention strategies, it has been recommended that professionals currently suffering from compassion fatigue undergo personal therapy, develop anxiety management strategies, and develop a firm understanding of their professional abilities and limits through increased supervision (Valent, 2002; Gentry, Baranowsky, and Dunning, 2002).


References

Adams, R. E., Boscarino, J. A., & Figley, C. R. (2006). Compassion fatigue and psychological distress among social workers: A validation study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 103-108.
Barnett, J.E., Baker, E.K., Elman, N.S., & Schoener, G.R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 603-612.
Bride, B. E. (2004). The Impact of Providing Psychosocial Services to Traumatized Populations. Stress, Trauma and Crisis: An International Journal, 7(1), 29-46.
Bride, B. E., Radey, M., & Figley, C. R. (2007). Measuring compassion fatigue. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 155-163.
Campbell, L. (2007). Utilizing compassion fatigue education in Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 165-171.
Craig, C. D., & Sprang, G. (2010). Compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout in a national sample of trauma treatment therapists. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 23(3), 20.
Fahy, A. (2007). The unbearable fatigue of compassion: Notes from a substance abuse counselor who dreams of working at Starbucks. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 199-205.
Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion Fatigue: Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in Those Who Treat the Traumatized. London.
Gentry, J.E., Baranowsky, A.B., & Dunning, K. (2002). The accelerated recovery program (ARP) for compassion fatigue. In Figley, C.R. (E.d.), Treating Compassion Fatigue (pp. 123-138). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
Reese, M. (2008, May 2008). Compassion Fatigue. Faith and Therapy, 2, 4.
Valent, P. (2002). Diagnosis and treatment of helper stresses, traumas, and illness. In Figley, C.R. (E.d.), Treating Compassion Fatigue (pp. 17-37). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.