The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

Compassion Meditation, Antidote for Compassion Fatigue

April 12, 2021 / by John Engel, MA

Monthly RC Mindfulness: Come Fill Your Cup - April 2021


More than 40 RC trainers, champions and staff attended the first RC Monthly Mindfulness session! We at TSI could not be more excited about the strong turnout for this new RC offering for client agencies. 

As promised, this blog offers a brief summary of the session, initial feedback from participants, and resources to advance learning and practice.

Enjoy the read and remember that all staff, Champions, and Trainers at RC agencies are welcome to attend this free, monthly drop-in offering – share this registration link with your coworkers today. We hope to see you May 5th when we will focus on another evidence-based mindfulness practice – gratitude.

Session Summary

Three types of empathy were identified and described – Cognitive (understanding another person’s thinking and perspective), Emotional (feeling what another person is feeling), and Compassion (feeling concern for another who is suffering). Each type of empathy is an important tool available to all RC treaters.

 

When a teenage client is upset about her mother not showing up for a scheduled visit, cognitive empathy helps an RC treater understand the client’s perspective and thinking whereas emotional empathy helps a treater feel in their own body what the client is feeling in their body. In this way, cognitive and emotional empathy provide RC treaters with important information about both the client’s experience and about their own experience of the client.

 

We can, however, become overwhelmed by emotional empathy. If someone is experiencing pain and distress, their nervous system is activated. Emotional empathy can, in turn, activate the parts of our own nervous systems associated with pain and suffering – we literally feel the client’s pain. When we as RC treaters feel the pain and distress of our clients (and of our colleagues) day in and day out without adequate recovery, we are subject to distress in the form of compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious trauma.

 

Compassion meditation is an evidence-based practice that can mute empathetic distress and thereby serve as an antidote to compassion fatigue. Building our capacity to experience compassion for ourselves, our clients and our colleagues is an active step we can take to support our own well-being and to help sustain our Risking Connection agency-wide culture.

 

Consider experimenting with compassion meditation in the coming month, using one of the resource links offered below. Remember to “do no harm” as you practice, meaning:

  • All practice is optional
  • Take a break or stop if you’re feeling distressed
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself and others
  • Seek support as needed

 

Initial Participant Feedback  

  • I thought the session was excellent – a nice mix of information and practice.
  • I had an amazing sense of serenity following the practice.  I even found myself practicing the prompts [the next day] during my “walking meditation".
  • Members of our team attended as a group. I loved it and it’s very important [to my program]. We had an amazing discussion following [the session].

 

Compassion Meditation Resources:  

Tags: Mindfulness

John Engel, MA

Written by John Engel, MA

John Engel is a Program Coordinator for the Traumatic Stress Institute of the Klingberg Family Centers, where he serves as a trainer and consultant for client agencies adopting whole system change to trauma-informed care. John also facilitates strategic change initiatives and product development for TSI, including development and launch of the Online ARTIC Scale. Additionally, John has been piloting mindfulness in the workplace, including design and delivery of a national training webinar entitled Mindfulness in the Workplace: Practices for Sustaining Trauma-Informed Care, design and facilitation of a day-long virtual training event, Mindfulness: The Inner Work of Racial Healing and Trauma-Informed Care, and a Monthly RC Mindfulness pilot in 2021. Since 2011, John has written a monthly column, The Fatherhood Journey, for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, with a mission of promoting public and private conversations about fatherhood.