How do Counsellors Maintain Compassion Satisfaction: Stories from Those Who Know




Sterling, Alex

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Several studies have suggested that compassion satisfaction (CS) promotes counsellor wellness through its mitigating effects on compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious traumatization. CS also contributes to career longevity and to a sense of fulfillment, balance, and wellness that extends from counsellors’ professional to personal lives. Yet, to date, very little research has been done using counsellor wellness or CS as a primary focus. While the literature on CS is relatively new, even less attention appears to have been paid to what experienced counsellors actively do to maintain CS and therefore, their wellness as counsellors. The purpose of this study was to extend the literature on counsellor CS by asking experienced counsellors how they actively maintain CS in their work. Participants (N = 6) were counsellors in the Victoria area who had worked in the field for at least 10 years, had a minimum of a Masters degree, and who were experiencing CS at the time of data collection. A social constructivist perspective was used to frame the study, and narrative interviews were used to collect the counsellors’ stories of how they had maintained CS throughout their careers. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and 6 themes are reported. Findings suggest that counsellors can actively increase their likelihood of maintaining CS by: (a) maintaining boundaries; (b) practicing self-care; (c) cultivating self-awareness; (d) developing positive, fulfilling relationships; (e) engaging in ongoing learning; and (f) embracing variety. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for counsellor training programs, the personal and professional lives and retention of counsellors already in the field, directors of counselling agencies, and client care.



Compassion Satisfaction, Counsellor Wellness, Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, Vicarious Traumatization, counselors