WTF: Essential Grounding and Debriefing Tools for Front Line Workers

Diana

Become more centered among the chaos

In the course of their work, many helping professionals are regularly exposed to difficult and sometimes traumatic material: anyone working in the criminal justice system, victim services, front line workers, those who work with forensic evidence and child exploitation, first responders, mental health crisis teams, homeless shelter staff and many others.

When there is a lot of exposure the risk for secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are high. How do we remain healthy and balanced while doing this challenging work? We need tools in our toolbox, skills that we can use before, during and after the difficult event has taken place. New research on grounding techniques and trauma reduction skills are showing promising results in helping to reduce secondary traumatic stress in trauma-exposed professionals.

This October, we are delighted to bring to you a brand new workshop designed by our very own Diana Tikasz, MSW, RSW. Diana has worked for many years in high stress, high trauma-exposed work settings and brings to this training her vast experience as a front line worker and supervisor, as well as the newest findings on the neuroscience of trauma exposure management.

WTF isn’t a swear word! It refers to the Window of Tolerance Framework. The WTF is our optimal zone – the place where we do our best work, when we are feeling calm yet energized, healthy and creative. Stressors and triggers can bring us out of that zone into high stress and reactivity, or into numbness and avoidance.

The techniques offered in this workshop will encompass the whole self as we can often retreat and get stuck in our heads. An emphasis will be on learning and incorporating strategies that change the way we work as opposed to using all our personal time to replenish what our work takes out of us.

This session will provide skills to help move yourself out of states of reactivity or avoidance and into the place of possibility to become more centered among the chaos. This is a crucial skill for front-line workers and others working with forensic evidence, investigations, court, witnesses and victims, and those working with individuals who have experienced difficult and traumatic experiences.

Those who would benefit are any folks in a helping profession that feel they are often overly stressed or hijacked by emotion, or those who are no longer enjoying their work and wondering whether they need to make a career change. Helpers who wish to learn specific skills that they can utilize to protect themselves in difficult situations whether it is working with those challenging clients, sitting in a difficult team meeting or interacting with a colleague who pushes your buttons. It is also for those who find that at times their personal lives are creating the WTF moments, which makes it extremely difficult to be present at work.

Diana: “I often say that helping work is even more difficult when the professional is going through their own personal stresses. We will focus on providing a framework and resources to help us navigate the storm. This workshop is especially for those who are feeling completely detached from what they are doing, feeling as though they are just “going through the motions” or counting down the days to retirement.”

Please consider joining us at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario on October 20, 2016 or bring this training to your team!

For more information and to register, click HERE.

 

 

 

Fall 2014 Workshop for Managers: Guide to Stress, Burnout and Trauma in the Workplace

Growing Volume of Work…More Complex Cases…

Shrinking Budgets…Overwhelmed and Stressed-Out Staff…

What can you do, as a manager?

overworked businessman

Develop strategies to address STRESS and TRAUMA in your workforce

Join us for 2 days of hands-on, concrete tools for Managers working in High Stress, Trauma-Exposed settings 

An intensive 2-day program with Dr Patricia Fisher, R.Psych., L.Psych. Canada’s leading expert in trauma-exposed environments.

September 23-24, 2014

9:00am-4:30pm (registration 8:30am)

Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario.

**Spaces limited to 25 participants – register early**

Click here for more information

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Click here to download Flyer

 

Brought to you by Compassion Fatigue Solutions

Beyond Kale and Pedicures…What works to manage compassion fatigue?

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014.

The conference will open with a presentation called Beyond Kale and Pedicures….What Works to Manage Compassion Fatigue? with Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed, CCC. Compassion Fatigue Specialist and author of “The Compassion Fatigue Workbook”

book launch photoSince the mid 1990s, an entire new industry of wellness has emerged: workshops, books, retreats and videos, all aiming to assist professional caregivers and other helping professionals reduce compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. Many workplaces jumped on the bandwagon early and started encouraging self-help strategies in their staff. Human resource departments began running workshops for staff on healthy eating, work-life balance and “stress busting”. Some organizations implemented regular fitness breaks and staff appreciation days.

Sounds great, right? The problem is that it didn’t really work – many staff stayed away, rates of burnout did not decrease significantly and staff morale continued its downward spiral. To be fair, it made sense for workplaces to focus on self-care – it was inexpensive, easily implemented and it didn’t require major systemic change. It was something concrete they could do. But maybe the solution to compassion fatigue and burnout is a little more complicated…

This presentation will discuss new research which suggests that in order to reduce compassion fatigue and burnout, we need to adopt a multi-pronged approach. Helpers, on their own, cannot be expected to fix an entire system. They do however remain responsible for their own well-being – it is an ethical responsibility, for themselves, their clients and the community in which they live.

So, how do we make this work? Join us for an exploration of where we are at, 20 years after the birth of this field.

Click here for more about Françoise Mathieu

Click here for more information

Work life balance: A load of bunk?

Happy New Year dear readers!

To say that I have been incredibly busy during the past six months is pretty much the understatement of 2013. Since July, I have worked with folks from L.A. County Courts, cancer care workers in Bermuda, amazing trauma therapists in New Haven, visited Vancouver three times to present to ObGyns and refugee protection staff (not at the same time…)

I also met staff from the UNHCR, presented at a children’s hospital in San Diego and had incredible learning experiences with fantastic helping professionals at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto.  My wonderful team of associates have also been busy, travelling to Indiana, Newfoundland and also offering a lot of training right here at home in Ontario. We presented on compassion fatigue, secondary and vicarious trauma, self care, conflict, change leadership, and developed a brand new training on rendering bench decisions to refugee claimants.

I also had the chance to co-develop a new workshop with my friend and colleague Leslie Anne Ross, from the Children’s Institute in Los Angeles, called “a Roadmap for Change Agents.” We are firm believers that the best way to promote healthy workplaces is to encourage the emergence of champions in each agency. This was an opportunity to share best practice ideas with folks from various child welfare departments in L.A. County, and encourage them to spread the learning about healthy workplaces.

Yes, it’s been nuts. But it has also been the most professionally rewarding year of my career. I would like to highlight some personal and professional learnings from the past year and see if some of them resonate for you: Read More

Trauma Sensitive Yoga for Soldiers and Veterans

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I worked as a mental health counsellor for a Canadian military base for about a decade. During this time, I saw many soldiers with PTSD – infantrymen, pilots, intelligence officers and other trades, all of whom had been exposed to unspeakable horrors in war-torn countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Many of them struggled with nightmares, anxiety, intrusive thoughts and reintegration into the civilian world. Some treatment modalities helped, some did not. At some point, a new military psychiatrist came into town, and all of a sudden I started hearing of clients being referred to hot yoga and mindfulness meditation (MBSR) classes. This, in the early 2000s, was very unusual in our neck of the woods. Read More

Making Workplace Conflict Work for You: Three Key Strategies

By Meaghan Welfare, Conflict Management Practitioner

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In today’s workplace we can be certain of only three things: there will be change, there will be stress and there will be conflict. It’s inevitable. As we navigate through our work days, we are confronted with conflict on different scales: perhaps someone drank the last cup of coffee and didn’t make more, maybe someone jammed the photocopier and walked away, or maybe you are experiencing bullying and harassment. The fact of the matter is that conflict has an ubiquitous influence on our working relationships. A recent survey conducted by CPP Global found that employees spend an average of 2.8 to 3.3 hours a week dealing with conflict, (low level and un-escalated conflict) and human resource workers spend upwards of 51% of their week addressing conflicts. A 1996 study demonstrated that 42% of a manager’s time is spent on conflict-related negotiations.

So, the million dollar question…What can we do about this?  While conflict is never truly preventable, we can learn effective approaches for maximizing positive outcomes and harnessing conflict to make it work for us.

Read More

How will you navigate the changing landscape of your work?

Has your work changed?

Is there more stress and uncertainty in your job than there used to be?

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57% of Canadians report high levels of stress

 1/3 Canadians put work first and let it interfere with family

(Duxbury & Higgins, 2012)

 

In 1991, according to the Duxbury study on work-life balance, 46% of Canadians reported being satisfied with life. In 2012, it has plummeted to 23%. As many of you know first-hand, the recent economic downturn has led to significant budgetary compressions in the public purse. As a result, many of us working in the helping fields and in the civil service have experienced massive changes: layoffs, reorganizations, job abolitions, changes in mandate, elevated conflict and a lot of uncertainty and fear of what is yet to come. Over the past ten years, I have crisscrossed the country many times to offer compassion fatigue training in nearly every province and territory. During my workshops, I get to meet with public sector employees, health care workers and other helping professionals as well as with management and human resources. Lately, I have been hearing the same words from nearly everyone I meet:  “change”,  “stress”, “conflict”, “uncertainty” and “overload”.

Is this true for you as well?

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Low Impact Debriefing: Preventing Retraumatization

(This article on Low Impact Debriefing is an updated version of our original 2008 post. Click Here to download a pdf version of the article)

Helpers who bear witness to many stories of abuse and violence notice that their own beliefs about the world are altered and possibly damaged by being repeatedly exposed to traumatic material.

 Karen Saakvitne and Laurie Ann Pearlman, Trauma and the Therapist (1995).

 

After a hard day…

How do you debrief when you have heard or seen hard things? Do you grab your closest colleague and tell them all the gory details? Do your workmates share graphic details of their days with you over lunch or during meetings?

When helping professionals hear and see difficult things in the course of their work, the most normal reaction in the world is to want to debrief with someone, to alleviate a little bit of the burden that they are carrying – it is a natural and important process in dealing with disturbing material. The problem is that we are often not doing it properly – we are debriefing ourselves all over each other, with little or no awareness of the negative impact this can have on our well-being.

Contagion

Helpers often admit that they don’t always think of the secondary trauma they may be unwittingly causing the recipient of their stories. Some helpers (particularly trauma workers, police, fire and ambulance workers) tell me that sharing gory details is a “normal” part of their work and that they are desensitized to it, but the data on vicarious trauma show otherwise – we are being negatively impacted by the cumulative exposure to trauma, whether we are aware of it or not.

Read More

How an organization implemented a CF initiative in the Workplace: Success Stories and Strategies

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Conference June 4-5th. Today, it’s all about organizational health

What would you do if you were given carte blanche to design and implement a compassion fatigue initiative in your workplace? 

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Read More

Book Review – The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit

Comfort_GardenDo you remember the last time you picked up a book that you could not put down until you had read every last word?

I just had that great pleasure with Laurie Barkin’s book The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit. This is a story of how a dedicated and highly experienced psychiatric nurse found her way into the depths of vicarious trauma and burnout and travelled her way back out again, having learned many important things along the way: Lessons about a dysfunctional health care system, the lack of support often experienced by patients and staff alike, about moral distress, repeated trauma exposure, about the price health care professionals pay when managed care has stripped away the structure that allowed them to do their work safely and ethically.

Sometimes I feel like that’s what we do at the hospital. We hold up the weight of the world. And, in doing so, we hear screams and witness the suffering that sometimes becomes our screams and our suffering, only we choke it back and continue bearing the weight without complaining and without acknowledging that we too need relief. L. Barkin “The Comfort Garden” (2011) Read More