Tony Buckley has extensive experience in the field of trauma including as the Manager of the Counselling and Trauma Service within the Occupational Health Department at Transport for London.
What are the difficulties you feel therapists encounter in caring for themselves?
Therapists can be blindsided by a number of subconscious mechanisms preventing them from effectively tuning into their own needs with enough clarity to recognise what they want and acting on this. They also face the hazard of engaging deeply with another’s psychology and losing the clarity of the boundary between therapist and client. The unexamined tendency to overreach (rescue) is an example of a blurring of the boundary, as is vicarious traumatisation in lack of separation from clients material and therapists emotional system.
Have you personally experienced compassion fatigue in your work? If so what helped you through that time?
Yes to some degree at various stages but particularly working in a traumatic stress centre with pressure to see more clients than a balance workload to meet KPI targets. What helped was physical activity and somatic resources such as grounding, breathing. Good support in the form of trustworthy others. Professional support on occasion. Effective supervision. Family/loved ones.
In your experience what are some of the warning signs a therapist needs to be mindful of with regards to developing compassion fatigue?
Preoccupation with thinking about clients problems out of clinical contact hours. Negative changes in own emotional equilibrium, moodiness, tetchiness, irritation and anger. Working longer hours. Lack of self care with basics such as exercise, breaks, diet, sleep. Over reliance on other methods of self regulation, medication, drugs, alcohol.
What are your hopes for your CPD day with Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training?
That therapists will gain a comprehensive understanding of the negative side of empathy, recognising warning signs within and around the therapeutic relationship. Will be able to make clear distinctions between phenomena such as stress, overwhelm, burnout, vicarious traumatisation, compassion fatigue, secondary trauma. Insight into how these interact and contribute to transference, countertransference difficulties leading to re-enactments and potential for relationship rupture, and complaints. Will gain some practical tools to use to optimize practitioner wellbeing. I am also hopeful that such a CPD will give a very positive uplift to organisational cultural sense of importance of practitioner well being and self care.
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