The following (Katz and Haldar (2016)) definition of trauma was presented:

“Family violence is traumatic when it “renders a person’s internal and external resources inadequate, making coping ineffective

Listening to graphic accounts of traumatic experiences disclosed by their clients can result in Compassionate Fatigue (CF) among practitioners.

Indicators of CF include:   “harmful changes in practitioners’ views  of themselves or their profession because of exposure to graphic traumatic experiences of their clients  (that)  result in a state of tension or preoccupation with client traumatic stories…avoidance of such stories  or a persistent state of tension”.

Minimally, trauma informed practice involves screening for clients’ traumatic experiences and

  • putting them in the forefront of the client-practitioner relationship,
  • adjusting their practice with the individual client’s traumatic experiences in mind and
  • employing modes of self-care to counter- balance the effects of listening attentively to the graphic descriptions of traumatic experiences disclosed to them by their traumatized clients

Four characteristics of trauma-informed practice are:

  1. identify trauma;
  2. adjust the practitioner-client relationship;
  3. adjust practitioner strategy and
  4. prevent direct or vicarious trauma

Empathy lies at the heart of trauma-informed practice; the effects of empathy on compassionate fatigue vary with the direct or vicarious experience of the traumatic experiences disclosed to them by clients. Practitioners should not  confuse empathy (walking in the shoes of the other)  with sympathy (Hallmark sympathy cards).

More specifically, direct empathy is experienced by practitioners who have experienced the same traumatic experiences disclosed to them by their clients. Vicarious empathy is imaginatively experiencing the traumatic experiences and associated feelings disclosed to them by their clients.

Compassionate fatigue tends to be stronger among direct empathy practitioners. Story telling by clients have a number of functions including bridging gaps in experience (between practitioners and clients that elicit empathy; exceptional window to lived experiences). Ultimately, family mediators can help facilitate the transition from traumatized victim to survivor to liberated agent of  her own fate when her trauma-informed practitioner is one who fully understands the therapeutic and legal significance of the transition.

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