New Course this fall – WTF: Essential Grounding and Debriefing Tools for Front Line Workers

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 fall, we are delighted to begin bringing 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.”





“Addressing Compassion Fatigue, An Ethical Mandate”

Working with clients in trauma can impact lawyers who represent children in the child welfare system, both personally and professionally.  Prolonged or repeated exposure to the abuse and neglect suffered by child victims can result in an acute form of burnout called compassion fatigue.  However, child lawyers, unlike other helping professionals, rarely have language for this loss of capacity nor support systems in place to combat it.  Large caseloads, inadequate resources and systems that sometimes re-victimize instead of rehabilitate, leave practitioners feeling ineffective, incompetent and lacking compassion. These conditions compromise the child lawyer’s ethical duty to provide competent representation. Speakers focus on preventative and responsive strategies for solo practitioners, agency lawyers and leaders who manage child lawyers, as well as the ethical implications of compassion fatigue on child representation.

Listen to the Audio Link –

Read the Article – Here

Trenny Stovall, Esq., DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center, Decatur, GA (moderator)
Alexandra Dolan, MSS, LSW, Support Center for Child Advocates, Philadelphia, PA
Josh Spitalnick, PhD, ABPP, Adjunct Asst. Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University SOM, Atlanta, GA
Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC., Co-Executive Director, TEND, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Danielle Lynch, Esq.,  Supervising Attorney. DeKalb Child Advocacy Center, Decatur, GA


Interview: How to use the Compassion Fatigue Workbook with your students

The Compassion Fatigue WorkbookToday, I am delighted to offer you an interview with Tanea Fortin, a Certified Child and Youth Counsellor and professor in the Child and Youth Worker program at St Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. Tanea has a wealth of experience working with children and youth, and is no newcomer to Compassion Fatigue education – she attended one of the very first workshops that Robin Cameron and I offered over a decade ago. Since then, Tanea has integrated concepts of self care into all of her teaching. I have had the pleasure of visiting Tanea’s class about once a year to meet her students and answer questions. When the Compassion Fatigue Workbook was published last year, Tanea decided to select it as one of her textbooks for the placement course.  I wanted Tanea to have the opportunity to share with other instructors what she has found useful. Tanea also generously offered to share two of her handouts with us. They are included as downloadable documents in the body of the text. Read More

Selected Bibliography for Child Protection Workers

 Journal articles on Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma and Child Protection

For an extensive bibliography, please visit the Child Welfare Information gateway: Secondary Trauma in the Child Welfare Workforce 2000-present. Compiled bibliography:

Bennett, S., Plint, A., & Clifford, T.J. (2005) Burnout, psychological morbidity, job satisfaction, and stress: a survey of Canadian hospital based child protection professionals. Arch. Dis. Child. 90; 1112-1116.

Conrad, D. & Kellar-Guenther, Y. (2003) Compassion Fatigue, burnout and compassion satisfaction among Colorado child protection workers. Child Abuse & Neglect 30(2006) 1071-1080.

Osofksy, J. (2009) Perspectives on helping traumatized infants, young children and their families. Infant mental health journal. Vol. 30(6), 673-677.


Books/Articles on Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma/Trauma

Baranowsky, A. (2002). The silencing response in clinical practice: On the road to dialogue. In C.R. Figley (Ed.), Treating compassion fatigue. New York: Brunner/Routledge.

Bober, T. & Regehr, C. (2005) Strategies for Reducing Secondary or Vicarious Trauma: Do They Work? Brief treatment and crisis intervention advance access, Dec 30, 2005.

Courtois, C.A., & Ford, J.D. (2009). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders. New York: Guilford Press.

Figley, C.R. (Ed.). (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Figley, C.R. (Ed.). (2002). Treating compassion fatigue. New York: Brunner/Routledge.

Gentry, E. (2002). Compassion fatigue: A crucible of transformation. Journal of Trauma Practice, 1(3/4), 37–61. Note: To obtain a PDF of this article, simply Google “Gentry crucible of transformation” and download the article from his Web site:­ (For some reason, visiting his Web site directly does not work but using Google does.) Do not download the version from Gift From Within as it is not the complete article.

Killian, K. (2008). Helping till it hurts? A multimethod study of compassion fatigue, burnout, and self-care in clinicians working with trauma survivors. Traumatology, 14(2), 32–44.

Mathieu, F. (2012). The compassion fatigue workbook: Creative tools for transforming compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization. New York: Routledge.

McCann, I.L., & Pearlman, L.A. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for under­standing the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3, 131–149.

Pearlman, L.A., & Saakvitne, K.W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: W.W. Norton.

Remen, R.N., (1996). Kitchen table wisdom. New York: Riverhead Books.

Richardson, J. (2001). Guidebook on vicarious trauma: Recommended solutions for anti-violence workers. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence.

Rothschild, B. (2006). Help for the helper: The psychophysiology of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. New York: W.W. Norton.

Saakvitne, K.W., & Pearlman, L.A. (1995). Treating therapists with vicarious traumati­zation and secondary traumatic stress disorders. In C. Figley (Ed.), Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the trau­matized. New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Saakvitne, K.W., Pearlman, L.A., & the staff of the Traumatic Stress Institute (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatization. New York: W.W. Norton.

Stamm, B.H. (Ed.). (1999). Secondary traumatic stress: Self-care issues for clinicians, researchers, and educators (2nd Ed.). Lutherville, MD: Sidran Press.

van Dernoot Lipsky, L. & Burke, C. (2009). Trauma stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Vicarious Trauma and the Professional Interpreter

Here is an interesting new blog post by Dr Robert Muller of York University which explore the ways in which professional interpreters (aka translators) can be deeply impacted by their work, particularly with trauma survivors and refugees. I remember being told the same thing by a sign language interpreter last year. She said (and I quote loosely) “you know when the signer is angry? Well I have to express that anger to the listener, I am the channel through which the anger, or whatever other emotion is being expressed, passes through. It can be very draining work from that perspective.”

Resources for Trainers

Welcome to this new section of the website! This is where I will be posting any resource that I come across that may be relevant/useful to you as a trainer. I would also like to invite you to share anything helpful that you come across. Just send me an email and I will post the article/link/strategy here with your name. Please make sure to have complete references for anything you are recommending so we can make sure proper credit is given to the original author.