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Issue: 32 - Aug 15, 2011
Compassion Fatigue and the Veterinary Team: Developing Detached Concern
By: Dana Durrance, M.A.
Dana Durrance, M.A.
Veterinarians constantly struggle to find a balance between caring too much and caring too little. Detached concern is the ability to detach from situations sufficiently to maintain sound medical judgment and equanimity, while simultaneously maintaining enough concern for patients and clients to provide them with sensitive and understanding care. When veterinarians can practice with detached concern, they are able to maintain appropriate boundaries between their personal and professional lives.
One of the best ways to develop detached concern is to develop insights regarding your own issues of loss and grief. As a helper, you can better assist clients with grief when you periodically monitor yourself in regard to it. It is a good idea to occasionally ask you the following questions:
How do you feel when you listen to someone describe the details of their loss experience?
Which cases or situations do you have the hardest time handling? What do you do when confronted with these cases?
What are your “hooks” or “triggers?” What situations make you feel “stirred up” or evoke a strong emotional response?
It is also helpful to be aware of two psychological processes at play here:
Transference: This refers to things about you or your personality that “trigger” issues for your client. You may find your client responding to you in a way that seems inappropriate or unexpected.
Counter-transference: This refers to things about your client or your client’s personality that trigger issues for you. You may find yourself reacting to your clients in a way that seems inappropriate or unexpected.
It is important to closely monitor these situations so that you can effectively assist clients without your personal experiences or values getting in the way. If you do find yourself getting hooked or triggered, it is important to acknowledge these feelings and either seek outside assistance in working with the client, or refer the client to another colleague.