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Is Your Staff Suffering From Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is characterized by feelings of apathy in situations where we normally feel compassion.  Compassion fatigue can occur when we are regularly emotionally stretched in our jobs in or out of our homes, when we continually work in  emotionally charged situations or must deal with chronic emotional stress.  Compassion fatigue can affect everyone from the front desk staff to Doctors and nurses with regular patient face time.  When constantly faced with stress, trauma or other difficult circumstances, we can find our compassion reserves being drained.  We may feel numb and apathetic towards the very people we serve.  People suffering from compassion fatigue might feel depressed, isolative, lack motivation or interest at work and home.  Compassion fatigue causes people to become less effective in their jobs.  This kind of chronic stress contributes to high turnover in the workplace.

Compassion fatigue happens over time.   We might just wake up and feel too tired to go to work and do our jobs, but the triggering event comes after an accumulation of stress.  We might feel less patient or caring towards people or we might begin to over-identify with the people we care for finding ourselves constantly ruminating on them.  While it is important for us to be empathetic towards our clients/patients/consumers, we must have psychological space from our work as caregivers so that we can recharge and be effective in our work. 

Having on site relief for staff can help.  Although you may be an approachable, listener for staff, some staff members may feel apprehensive in talking about their anxieties and stresses for fear of appearing weak or unprofessional.  Managers also need an outlet for stress since they are expected to not only handle their jobs, but be sounding boards for the people reporting to them.  When managers experience compassion fatigue they are less approachable and reinforce a culture of apathy in the workplace. 

As a counselor with years of experience in community health and private practice, I understand how challenging it can be to work in and run a care oriented business.  Keeping your focus, maintaining customer/patient care and support and providing excellent service are all key ingredients to success.  To continue growing, we need to provide in house support and care to our staff.  Nurturing skills of compassion and empathy and validating concerns in co-workers, clerical and administrative staff is essential for helping businesses to stay profitable. 

I offer support services to businesses with weekly and bi-weekly visits on-site and in my office.  My services include confidential employee/staff visits at pre-scheduled times where folks can come to talk about any issues they are grappling with including work related frustrations, anxiety, depression, secondary trauma and other issues in their lives, in or outside of work.  I teach coping skills and recommend community resources when appropriate.  My service allows your business the benefit of on-the-spot response to difficult or stressful circumstances when you need it rather than after the   fact.  Dealing with stress and emotional fatigue in a timely and effective manner can lessen the effect of stress on us.  Having regular support can help reduce or eliminate the effects of compassion fatigue and make your work environment a more productive and positive place to be.

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