MHPN Networks explore Vicarious Trauma and self-compassion in meetings

Jacqui O'Loughlin headshot
Jacqui O’Loughlin/National Networks Program Team Leader
2 mins read·May 3rd, 2021

Practitioner self-compassion is a topic of interest for MHPN network meetings in 2021

As we emerge from the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, practitioner self-compassion is becoming a growing topic of interest for MHPN network meetings in 2021.

In a recent meeting of the Casey Cardinia Family Violence Network, presenter and Social Worker, Courtney Lucanto encouraged practitioners to engage in self-compassion as a means to increase professional resilience.

Courtney explained the differences between compassion fatigue, the concept of collective care and vicarious trauma (VT). She identified that, importantly, VT is a process rather than a single event.

‘It is common for practitioners to encourage their clients to engage in self-care but then feel unable to follow their own advice’, Courtney says. She stressed that professional humility is key, ‘we have to sit with where we’re at. If we don’t have the permission to do self-care, we aren’t practicing’.

Courtney encouraged her audience to consider their own levels of emotional fatigue. This can be done through an assessment by practitioners of their own trauma inputs from a range of environments – including media.

Another MHPN Network putting a spotlight on practitioner self-compassion this year is the Townsville Mindfulness Network.

In a nod to the growing interest in this theme, all of the network’s 2021 meetings will be on the topic of compassion, specifically self-compassion and how health professionals can exercise practical self-care.

Karen Cribb, the Townsville Mindfulness Network’s coordinator, hopes that the focus on self-compassion in her network’s meetings will provide some reassurance to those still managing the uncertainty and isolation of the last year.

Self-compassion is important for clients and practitioners alike but especially for practitioners. Karen says, ‘it is really important for everyone to understand the concept of compassion – you cannot pour from an empty cup’.

It is evident that breaking down the barriers to practitioner self-compassion is a complex process. Karen continues, ‘the thought of doing something nice for ourselves is often seen as narcissistic behaviour when in fact it is necessary’.

‘Ongoing care of the entire person – physical, mental and spiritual is so important if the person is to remain functioning well.’

Both Courtney and Karen made the point that finding time for yourself isn’t selfish, and that giving yourself permission to start thinking about that is the first step, Karen says, “I think by identifying that self-compassion is a necessity rather than an indulgence would be a good place to start”.

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The Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) respectfully acknowledges the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which our office is situated. We also acknowledge Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.