Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 199–205 | Cite as

The Unbearable Fatigue of Compassion: Notes from a Substance Abuse Counselor Who Dreams of Working at Starbuck’s

  • Annie Fahy
Original Paper


Current research has determined that a larger percent of social workers and other counselors are affected by PTSD types of symptoms when working with traumatized clients than the general population. While much of this research addresses workers in specific trauma areas like sexual assault centers or child welfare agencies, little specific thought has been given towards the special stress that working with Substance Abuse Disorders (SA) and trauma may present. This paper takes a brief look at the issues of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue with SA practice and describes future investigation pathways toward this goal.


Compassion fatigue Secondary trauma Substance abuse 


  1. Azar, S. T. (2000). Preventing burnout in professionals and paraprofessionals who work with child abuse and neglect cases: A cognitive behavioral approach to supervision. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 56, 643–663.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baer, J. S., et al. (2004). An evaluation of workshop training in motivational interviewing for addiction, mental health clinicians. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 73, 99–106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bober, T., Regeher, C., & Zhou, Y. R. (2006). Development of the coping strategies inventory for trauma counselors. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 11, 71–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bride, B. E. (2004). The impact of providing psychosocial services to traumatized populations. Stress, Trauma, and Crisis: An International Journal, 7, 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bride, B. E. (2007). Prevalence of secondary trauma stress in social workers. Social Work, 52, 63–70.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bride, B.E., & Walls, E. (in press). Secondary traumatic stress in substance abuse treatment. Journal of Teaching in the Addictions.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, P. J., Stout, R. L., & Mueller, T. (1996). Substance use disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder co morbidity: Addiction and psychiatric treatment rates. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 13, 115–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, P. J., Stout, R. L., & Mueller, T. (1999). Posttraumatic stress disorder in substance abuse relapse among women: A pilot study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 10, 124–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, S., & Long, A. (2003). Working with psychological effects of trauma: Consequences for mental health care workers—A literature review. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 10, 417–424.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cottler, L. B., Compton, W. M., Mager, D., Spitznagel, E. L., & Janca, A. (1992). Posttraumatic stress disorder among substance users from the general population. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 664–670.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Dansky, B. S., Saladin, M. E., Brady, K. T., Kilpatrick, D., & Resnick, H. (1995). Prevalence of victimization and posttraumatic stress disorder among women with substance use disorders: Comparison of telephone and in person samples. International Journal of Addictions, 30, 1079–1099.Google Scholar
  12. Denning, P. (2002). Harm reduction psychotherapy. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  13. Dulwich Centre. (n.d.). Deconstructing addiction. Retrieved January 25, 2007, from Dulwich Web Site:
  14. Fallot, R. D., & Harris, M. (2002). The trauma recovery and empowerment model (TREM): Conceptual and practical issues in a group intervention. Community Mental Health Journal, 38, 475–486.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fallot, R. D., & Harris, M. (2004). Integrated trauma services teams for women survivors with alcohol and other drug problems and co-occurring mental disorders. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 22, 181–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Figley C. R. (Ed.). (1995). Compassion fatigue as a secondary traumatic stress disorder: An overview. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  17. Figley C. R. (Ed.). (1999). Compassion fatigue: Toward a new understanding of the costs of caring for clinicians. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  18. Ford, J. D., & Russo, E. (2006). Trauma-focused, present centered emotional self-regulated approach to integrated treatment for post trauma stress and addiction: Trauma adaptive recovery group education and therapy TARGET. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 60, 335–357.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kulka, R. A., Schlenger, W. E., Fairbank, J. A., Hough, R. L., Jordan, B. K., & Mamar, C. R., et al. (1990). Trauma and the Vietnam war generation: Report of findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment study. New York: Brunner, Mazel.Google Scholar
  20. McCann, I. L., & Pearlman, L. A. (1990). Vicarious trauma: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 131–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2002). Motivational interviewing (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  22. Miller, W. R., Yahne, C. E., & Moyers, T. B. (2004). Evaluating methods for motivational enhancement education (EMMEE). Retrieved February 2, 2007, from Web Site:
  23. NAADAC. (2007). Issue brief: Current and future addiction workforce. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from Web Site:
  24. Najavits, L. M. (2002). Seeking safety. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  25. Oumiette, P. C., Ahrens, C., & Moos, R. H. (1997). Posttramatic stress disorder in substance abuse patients: Relationship to 1-year posttreatment outcomes. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 11, 34–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Oumiette, P. C., Ahrens, C., Moos, R. H., & Finney, J. W. (1998). During treatment changes in substance abuse patients with posttramatic stress disorder: The influence of specific interventions and program environments. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 15, 555–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Smith, M. J. W., Whitaker, T., & Weismuller, T. (2006). Social workers in the substance abuse treatment field: A snapshot of service activities. Health & Social Work, 31, 109–117.Google Scholar
  28. Triffleman, E., Marmar, C., Delucchi, K., & Ronfeldt, H. (1995). Childhood trauma and posttrammatic stress disorder in substance abuse inpatients. Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 183, 172–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tuohy, C. M. (2006). NAADAC leader addresses future of addiction workforce. Retrieved January 22, 2007, from Web Site:.Google Scholar
  30. White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to a therapeutic ends. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  31. Winslade, J., & Smith, L. (Eds.). (1997). Countering alcoholic narratives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations