The Psychic Costs of Empathic Engagement: Personal and Demographic Predictors of Genetic Counselor Compassion Fatigue
- 821 Downloads
Empathic connection with one’s patients is essential to genetic counselor clinical practice. However, repeatedly engaging with distressed patients may cause compassion fatigue, a phenomenon characterized as feeling overwhelmed by experiencing patients’ suffering. In order to extend findings of an initial qualitative study, we surveyed 222 genetic counselors about their compassion fatigue and factors that predict its occurrence. Multiple regression analysis identified seven significant predictors accounting for 53.7% of the variance in compassion fatigue. Respondents at higher risk of compassion fatigue were more likely to report being burned out, using self-criticism and giving up to manage stress, experiencing a greater variety of distressing clinical events, having larger patient caseloads, relying on religion as a coping strategy, having no children, and seeking support to manage stress. Respondents also provided critical incidents regarding their compassion fatigue and themes in these incidents are described. Practice and research recommendations are provided.
KeywordsGenetic counselor compassion fatigue Empathy Stress Burnout Coping Self-care Countertransference
- Azar, B. (1997). Defining the trait that makes us human. American Psychological Association Monitor, 28(1), 15.Google Scholar
- Breggin, P. R. (2006). The heart of being helpful: Empathy and the creation of a healing presence. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Djurdjinovic, L. (1998). Psychosocial counseling. In D. L. Baker, J. L. Schuette, & W. R. Uhlmann (Eds.), A guide to genetic counseling (pp. 127–170). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Farber, B. A. (1983). Introduction: A critical perspective on burnout. In B. A. Farber (Ed.), Stress and burnout in the human service professions (pp. 1–20). New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
- Figley, C. R. (1995). Compassion fatigue. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
- Figley, C. R. (2003). Compassion fatigue: An introduction. Retrieved June 5, 2005 from the Green Cross Foundation Web site: http://www.greencross.org/_Research/CompassionFatigue.asp.
- Gentry, J. E. (2005). Compassion fatigue: Prevention and resiliency. Eau Claire, WI: PESI Healthcare, LLC.Google Scholar
- Maslach, C. (1982). Burnout: The cost of caring. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- McCarthy Veach, P., LeRoy, B. S., & Bartels, D. M. (2003). Facilitating the genetic counseling process: A practice manual. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Pines, A. M. (1993). Burnout. In L. Goldberger, & S. Breznitz (Eds.), Handbook of stress-theoretical and clinical aspects (pp. 386–402). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Pines, A., & Aronson, E. (1988). Career burnout: Causes and cures. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
- Rudolph, J. M., Stamm, B. H., & Stamm, H. E. (1997). Compassion fatigue, a concern for mental health policy, providers and administration. Presented at the 13th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Montreal, CA.Google Scholar
- Skovholt, T. M. (2001). The resilient practitioner: Burnout prevention and self-care strategies for therapists, counselors, teachers, and health professionals. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
- Stamm, B. H. (2005). The ProQOL. Retrieved February 2, 2005 from http://www.isu.edu/∼bhstamm.
- Steed, L., & Bicknell, J. (2001). Trauma and the therapist: The experience of therapists working with the perpetrators of sexual abuse. Retrieved from http://www.maaey.ac.nz/∼trauma/issues/2001–1/steed.htm.
- Weil, J. (2000). Psychosocial genetic counseling. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Zahm, K., McCarthy Veach, P., & LeRoy, B.S. (2008). An investigation of genetic counselor experiences in peer group supervision. Journal of Genetic Counseling, in press. Google Scholar