As a social species, human beings are sociobiologically connected to each other. Witnessing another person’s suffering is so traumatic that torturers frequently force their victim to observe the torture of another in order to elicit information. It has long been recognized that emergency workers, physicians, nurses, police officers, firemen, journalists, clergy, social service workers, colleagues, family members, and other witnesses and bystanders to disasters and other trauma can experience secondary symptoms themselves.
Currently the terms that are used most frequently to describe these symptoms are secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious traumatization. Secondary traumatic stress is defined as the natural, consequent behavior and emotions that result from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by another and the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person. The symptoms are almost identical to those of PTSD (Catherall, 1995). Compassion fatigue is described as the natural, predictable, treatable, and preventable unwanted consequence of working with suffering people (Figley, 1995). Vicarious traumatization is defined as the cumulative transformative effect on the helper of working with survivors of traumatic life events, both positive and negative (McCann & Pearlman, 1990).
WHAT IS IT?
A self-care plan is a methodical way of encouraging helpers to take their own psychological and physical health seriously by evaluating the multiple strategies for caring for themselves that they are already using and that they want to develop further. The plan looks at physical, psychological, social, and spiritual strategies and strategies that are meant for one's personal life and in the workplace.
WHAT"S THE PURPOSE?
In a team, sharing each other's self-care plans with each other helps to build teamwork and support for each other, while it sets an organizational norm that self-care is not optional - it's necessary. Vicarious trauma can lead to burnout which can have serious and destructive results for the individual, colleagues, clients and the organization as a whole.