The Rewards of the Work

This will be a super quick post as I have two new workshops to prepare today and am very behind, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about some recent experiences. My past two weeks of work have been so rewarding and fulfilling, and it made me reflect on this concept, which Pearlman and Saakvitne discuss in their amazing little book Transforming the Pain (a book that was truly the cornerstone of the work Robin Cameron and I have done in the field of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma). At the end of Transforming the Pain, the authors invite readers to reflect and reconnect with the rewards of this work of helping others: What sustains you as a professional, they ask, what helps you reconnect with hope, joy and gets you going every day, to do this deeply challenging work? For me, running the Compassion Fatigue Train the Trainer courses is definitely among the top 5 reasons I do this work.

I just completed two such sessions: One at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and one in Kingston. The second training was an intensive – a three day retreat with a very small group of compassion fatigue educators, the Sinai one was with a larger group of health care workers. It is such a privilege to get to spend several days with these highly motivated trainees who have not only a huge interest in the field but also a vast amount of professional and lived experience themselves. It is not an expert vs student setting, but rather a knowledge exchange where everyone learns from the rest of the group, including (or especially) me. On the second day of the course, participants are asked to design and deliver a teaching component to the remainder of the class. This can be a nerve-wracking experience for those who have never done public speaking before. But every time I run this training, something magical happens on day two: people start owning the material and making it theirs, their voice emerges out of the group and they take a step into the world of becoming a compassion fatigue educator. It’s a truly beautiful thing. Every time this moment in the course comes, I am surprised and overcome with how emotional I feel, how proud I am of the trainees. It  never gets old, after training nearly 500 Compassion Fatigue Trainers and offering the intro course to thousands of others, I am still super jazzed about it. In fact, it’s getting more and more fun as time passes. I think that’s a pretty good sign of a rewarding job, eh?

What is the reward of your work? What gets you up in the morning, and keeps you going in this weird and wonderful work that you do as a helping professional?

8 Responses to The Rewards of the Work

  1. Lynda Monk says:

    Hi Francoise and others who make a difference with your caring…
    I love this reflection. I teach Writing for Wellness and Journaling for Reflective Workshops for helpers, healers and caregivers…and I often give this same question as a journaling prompt (from the Transforming the Pain workbook that you mentioned above). When I did my MSW in the area of burnout prevention for social workers, one of the things I often read in the research was how staying connected to what is meaningful to us in helping work is in fact an antidote to burnout – hence, this is such a great thing for us to reflect upon. I get filled up by my work, especially by the moments when I am facilitating a workshop or retreat – and that moment when everyone is quietly writing, taking the time for themselves to pause and reflect and heal through writing, I literally can feel my heart open in those moments. The sound of everyone’s pens moving over the paper – filling a space – writing alone and together – connecting with their inner truth and wisdom, nourishing their spirits word by word, moment by moment – even thinking about it – brings me joy. Thanks for your blog post Francoise and for your very important work in the world. Cheers to all, Lynda

  2. Laurie says:

    I love getting up in the morning knowing that I am able to help others! When it gets crazy (and it does in a Hospital), I feel at my absolute best when I am actively listening to patients and colleagues. It gives them a moment to feel that someone is listening to them, and it reminds me to listen more, and to make time to do this in such a fast-paced busy world. When it all comes down to the wire I think that all of us need love and attention and to feel heard.
    I love how positive this can be when it’s put into practise!

  3. Françoise says:

    That is great to hear Patricia! Some of the most important aspects of this work are providing a common language, as you say, normalizing and validating the experiences so many helping professionals experience, but don’t often know is shared by others, and finally some tools, a roadmap so that we can continue doing good quality work even though it is filled with challenges.

  4. Patricia Baigent says:

    I’ve facilitated the Walking the Walk workshop for all of the staff in our organization now. Every time I do supervision with one of my staff now compassion fatigue, yellow/red zone, sliming or some other part of the workshop comes up in our discussion. It feels so rewarding that I have provided the staff with such a useful tool and we have a common language to discuss these issues. I’m really excited about sharing the gift with more people!

  5. Françoise says:

    Yael I tried to find a great clip from an episode of “The Good wife” to share with you but I couldn’t locate it. It’s very funny – in the middle of a heated debate in the courtroom, a judge teaches the lawyers how to “squash their fists” to manage their anger. It was hilarious. But on a more serious note, teaching children (and adults) to self-regulate, and seeing them truly “get it” is amazing. Doesn’t get much better than that, really!

  6. Françoise says:

    I completely agree, Vic. “The Gift of Anger” sounds like an interesting course. I work with a colleague who is a conflict engagement specialist and we find that so many clients/helping professionals are incredibly uncomfortable with anger and conflict, ah, but that’s for another conversation. Always great to hear from you!

  7. Yael Calhoun says:

    What a wonderful idea to ponder …
    I love what I do because I am able to share simple stress management ideas (breathing, yoga) with all ages. A third grader told me this week … “I did fist breathing this week.” “Did it help?” I asked. She said, ‘Yes, I felt like putting my fist through the wall, but I did fist breathing instead and it helped.” She smiled.
    Repurposing of the fist. I do it with veterans and other traumatized folks. It feels good to share things that help people heal. Yael

  8. Vic Unruh says:

    I started a group on Thursday called The Gift of Anger. It is one I haven’t run for several years. I felt energized and excited when we completed the first session. Makes me wonder why I don’t do this more often. With respect to individual work, I often try to visualize the path my clients are on and feel humbled and blessed to be able to sojourn with them. I see it as their gift to me, “I trust you to join me on this personal quest”. A very precious gift indeed.

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