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2-Day Restorative Practices for Helping Professionals: Transforming Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue

  • Fred Finch Youth Center 3800 Coolidge Avenue Oakland, CA 94602 (map)


Gabriel’s bio

This training has two distinct parts: first a didactic component, and then an experiential component.  When we talk about the physical, psychological, and spiritual impacts of working relationally to help others who have been hurt, there are three related terms of consequence: vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion fatigue.

Dr. Laurie Ann Pearlman, who coined the term Vicarious Trauma, says that Vicarious trauma (VT) is the process of change that happens because you care about other people who have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to help them.  The symptoms of vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress are identical, while it is important to note that vicarious trauma is conceptualized as a gradual (cumulative process), while secondary traumatic stress can occur suddenly (shock trauma).  While compassion fatigue specifically identifies decreases in compassion, all three tend to lead to a gradual decrease in compassion for clients (and self) over time.

This training will begin with administration of the ProQOL (Professional Quality of Life measure, a self-report measure that identifies burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion satisfaction).  Participants will score and interpret the measure.  We will then proceed to an in-depth review of Dr. Pearlman’s significant framework of Vicarious Trauma.  In this review, we’ll define the term, explore who is most at-risk and why, examine signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma, as well as Dr. Pearlman’s concept of the two levels of responding to vicarious trauma, which she calls Coping with Vicarious Trauma, and Transforming Vicarious Trauma.  

We will then comprehensively review the neurophysiology of stress, including an overview of the Polyvagal Theory.  We will review the Applied Mindfulness restorative practices conceptual framework.  In the second half of the training, which is experiential, we will experience a broad variety of restorative practices for applying mindfulness skillfully in responding to the disruptions in autonomic nervous system regulation that characterize second-level trauma exposure.  We will explore internal practices, relational practices, practices of nature connection, and creative practices.  Individuals will identify a variety of approaches for themselves that address underlying concerns, and identify a toolbox of approaches that they can apply.  These plans will identify two levels of response, first a ‘coping’ level for addressing VT on a daily or maintenance basis, and then a deeper ‘transforming’ level that identifies deep, systemic, and on-going practices that a person may engage to shift baseline nervous system states.  We will conclude by studying the emering field of behavior design, which synthesizes insights from neuroscience and design thinking about how to transform behavior.

Learning Objectives (2 days)

-Participants understand and distinguish between vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and compassion fatigue, and burnout

-Participants self-assess their levels of burnout, secondary traumatic stress and compassion satisfaction through the ProQOL

-Participants identify 6 key attributes of vicarious trauma, identify who is most at-risk, and identify common signs and symptoms

-Participants analyze the physiology of stress

-Participants memorize the 4 fundamental nervous system states that comprise the polyvagal theory

-Participants list the 5 features of Applied Mindfulness

-Participants experience 4 categories of restorative practices: internal, relational, nature connection, and creative practices

-Participants define a personal self-care plan

-Participants review 5 key characteristics of successful behavior change and new habit creation

Ways to use your new skills and knowledge after the training

-continue to self-assess secondary stress using ProQOL

-conceptualize stress and utilize this conceptualization in reflecting on their work and work with clients, utilize this framework in talking with others

-continue to seek out and practice restorative practices for coping with and transforming vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress