• Compassion fatigue among Employee Assistance Program counselors

      Jacobson Frey, Jodi; DiBlasio, Frederick A. (2004)
      Compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction, and related constructs have not been empirically studied among Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselors. Prior research on secondary traumatic stress has focused on psychotherapists and emergency services personnel. EAP counselors are exposed to trauma as they are often the first mental health professional to hear a client's traumatic story through initial assessments and short-term counseling, as well as being the first mental health professional to respond to workplace critical incidents. Compassion fatigue among mental health counselors has been identified as an 'occupational hazard' and linked to negative psychological outcomes for the therapists as well as the client. This study assessed the prevalence and severity of compassion fatigue and burnout and potential for compassion satisfaction among EAP counselors. This study also explored relationships between individual and work-related characteristics as they predict or mediate EAP counselors' reactions to working with traumatized individuals and groups. A random national sample of 325 EAP counselors were surveyed using an anonymous mailed questionnaire during summer 2003. Results suggest that EAP counselors experience moderate risk for compassion fatigue, low risk for burnout, and high potential for compassion satisfaction. A predictive model based on the literature was developed and used in this study to predict risk for compassion fatigue and burnout and potential for compassion satisfaction. Subsequent multiple regressions were completed using the model for each of the outcome variables of interest. Results indicated that the predictive model, including coping style, was able to account for 21.5% of the total variance for compassion fatigue; 30.7% of the total variance for burnout; and 35.1% of the total variance for compassion satisfaction. The coping sub-scales were developed using principal components analysis (PCA) on the Brief COPE (Carver, 1997). Results from the PCA strongly suggest the existence of three separate subscales for coping: positive coping, passive coping, and negative coping. Another finding from this research indicated that specific types of personal trauma experiences, measured using the Stressful Life Experiences Scale (SLES-S, Stamm et al., 1996) were related to compassion fatigue and related constructs. Implications for research, theory, practice, and policy are discussed.