Diving into the helping profession is something that I did wholeheartedly. Helping others is something that I had an immense passion for and I was eager to be able to do something to ease others’ stress, pain, and trauma. While I knew I was ready to give my attention, energy, and time to others, I also had to be conscious of how that would have an impact on me. Throughout my training, I was frequently told to look out for transference and countertransference within the session (when a client transfers feelings about someone from their past onto their therapist and the therapist’s reaction to the projections of the client, respectively). This highlighted the need to pay attention to how interactions between people have an impact on each other.
One way to manage this type of impact is through self-reflection. Whether it’s independently or with the help of someone else, engaging in self-reflection allows you to take a step back and process how the work you are doing is having an impact on you and gives you the space to make any adjustments you need to make in order for you to take care of your own wellbeing and also to provide the best care to those who you are working with.
Another element to look out for is secondary trauma or compassion fatigue.
Secondary trauma is emotional stress or trauma that results from listening to details of other people’s trauma or distress. In these cases, the desire to help continues, but the compassion fatigue felt often leaves helpers feeling drained, unsure of how to continue to show empathy, and personal distress.
Continued work with people in distress can become overwhelming, particularly if you do not (1) take time to care for yourself and (2) have a strategy for how to hold space for others.
You can find a basic checklist for self-care here: Self-care for Carers.
You can find a more detailed guide on how to hold space here: Holding Space