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Compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction among psychologists: Can supervision and a reflective stance be of help?

Mikaela Dehlin and Lars-Gunnar Lundh
p. 95-107
DOI: 10.17505/jpor.2018.09

Abstract: The pleasure derived from helping others is referred to as compassion satisfaction (CS). When a psychologist feels a too heavy demand to be compassionate and effective in helping, however, this may result in compassion fatigue (CF). CF may take the form of burnout or secondary traumatic stress (STS). The present paper focuses on two factors that may possibly protect against the development of CF, and facilitate the development of CS: (1) access to supervision and (2) a reflective stance. An online survey was distributed to two closed Swedish Facebook groups of psychologists, and complete data were obtained from 374 psychologists (320 women and 63 men). Both variable-oriented and person-oriented analyses were carried out. Correlational analysis showed that both supervision and reflection was associated with more CS, whereas only supervision but not reflection was significantly associated with less CF. Cluster analysis gave a more nuanced picture, suggesting a non-linear and multi-faceted association between reflection and CF. Some clusters of psychologists showed the expected association between level of reflection and level of CF. This was balanced, however, by other clusters that showed an association in the opposite direction, indicating high levels of reflection in clinicians with high levels of CF, and low levels in clinicians with low levels of CF. The results are discussed in terms of these differences in associative patterns possibly being due to different patient populations being involved. Among the limitations of the present study are its cross-sectional design, absence of data on patient characteristics, and a crude measure of supervision and reflection.

Keywords: Compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction, supervision, reflective stance

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