“Make a habit
of two things:
to help;
or at least to do no harm”.

Psycho Dynamics

Written By Susan Stubbings
In order to prevent and avoid serious problems and to Self-care we may need to raise our self-awareness and understanding of what the negative affects ‘could’ be to being a caring and compassionate person who regularly supports others.   To understand how to protect ourselves from finding our self in a full blow personal crisis is to know what the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue are.  To explore and understand our own patterns of stress so we are able to recognise when we are on our way to being burnt out or in crisis through vicarious traumatisation .

Below is a brief description of some of the dynamics which contributes to experiencing compassion fatigue:

EMPATHY (Rogers)
BACP define empathy as “the ability to communicate understanding of another person’s experience from that person’s perspective”.  Empathy is ‘feeling with others’ by using our imagination to ‘feel into’ another; it is a choice as we need to connect with something inside our self to be able to make connection with another.  When we are working at relational depth we are open to absorbing all manner of dynamics from others.

PROJECTION (Melanie Kline)
Is a defence mechanism which involves a client taking their unacceptable feelings, thoughts and qualities and ascribing them to others in this case client’s project their unacceptable onto the counsellor.  Projections works by allowing the unexpressed desires or impulses to be expressed all though this is usually unconscious. Its healing is reducing anxiety.

Is a defence mechanism see above projective; identification is a step further in that the client projecting is trying to evoke the same feelings in the counsellor so the counsellor may identify with those feelings.  It is an unconscious dynamic so out of awareness of the client; it is a powerful interpersonal communication of expression.  The downside is the counsellor may be caught up in manipulation by the client’s unexpressed desires and fantasies; if the dynamic of outside the counsellor awareness.  It is mainly an unconscious dynamic and the counsellor may “act as if” they were the clients relative or whoever was being projected.  Projection identification can alter the counsellors’ sense of self and all that goes with being reduced.  Thus become the carrier of the clients’ projections as such this may become the clients ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’ and the counsellors’ neurosis.

Transference is a form of projection the client unconsciously transmits, usually their difficult and unowned feelings into the counsellor; the feelings are usually were felt towards a parent or a significant person from the clients’ childhood.  The feelings may be negative as in anger or frustration or positive as in love and affection; it is a normal dynamic which become inappropriate when patterns lead to maladaptive thoughts, feelings or behaviours.  This produces a variety of opposites which need to be tolerated by the counsellor to aid healing and/or clarifying with the client who the feelings really belong towards this will be unconscious for the client until awareness is reached.

Is the redirecting of the counsellors’ feelings back towards the client, this usually results in both the clients and the counsellors’ feelings becoming entangled and enmeshed if the dynamics remain unconscious for both client and counsellor.  The counsellor needs to be self-aware, aware of their own issues and to own the counter transference in order for any transference in the counselling dyad to be of healing use to the client. When counter- transference is owned by the counsellor it aids the counsellor to regulate their own emotions gaining personal development and at the same time to gaining valuable insight into the client’s world enabling depth empathy.  Once this is achieved the counsellor can explore the client’s feelings clarifying how the feelings relate to the clients’ issues offering the client insight, healing and change.

Means the merging or flowing together like two rivers meeting and merging and becoming as one river; in this case the coming together of two psychic dynamics, for this to happen it also has projection at its centre, it may also involve introjections (the unconscious adoption of the counsellor’s attitudes and values).  This results in a loss of psychological boundaries between the client and the counsellor there is no distinction between where you end and I start.  This may sound negative and it too can be the clients’ self-fulfilling prophecies and the counsellors’ crisis but if it is within the counsellors’ awareness then like counter-transference it can be a wholly healing experience for the client and equally transforming for the counsellor.

Is any experience which causes pressure, tension or strain, it is a mental and emotional state of worry, anxiety, nervousness and fear etc which changes our normal coping mechanisms. It has its dynamics in the over release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands.

Is any experience or experiences which are deeply disturbing and distressing and which overwhelms a person’s coping mechanisms and alters a person’s perspectives on life and living.

Is a result of long term work related stress and work overload it is emotional and mental exhaustion and loss of interest in the work being undertake i.e. supporting your clients; it may also involve depression.  The experience of burn out may follow denial of your emerging problems and denial of stress symptoms believing you can overcome anything whilst neglecting your personal needs and self-care which in turn will lead to personal crisis and at its worst involve in few cases suicidal ideation; being involved in overwhelming frightening and fearfully distressing events.

Susan Stubbings Doncaster