chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
July 03, 2018 Practice Points

Five Steps for Addressing Compassion Fatigue

By Cathy Krebs

"The term 'compassion fatigue' has been used to describe the negative effects experienced by caregivers, service providers, and other employees in certain high-stress fields resulting directly from repeated exposure to traumatized victims. Research has shown that compassion fatigue leads to an increase in direct negative impacts on clients."* To ensure we are providing zealous representation to our clients, we must address compassion fatigue. Here are five ways to get you started:

  1. Take care of yourself. Start small. Have a cup of coffee, take a nap, read for pleasure, write, take a walk, listen to music, or find 5 minutes to meditate.
  2. Connect with a friend. Pick up the phone and have a conversation or find a time to meet in person.
  3. Learn to say no. Say no to working over lunch, bringing work home with you, or scheduling your most problematic cases for Friday afternoons.
  4. In the work place: Find two people in your workplace who are a positive resource for you. Celebrate the silly and the irrelevant, bring in birthday cakes and have potlucks.
  5. Find opportunities to purposefully engage in conversations about moving the work forward both locally and nationally.

If you want to learn more:
Addressing Compassion Fatigue: An Ethical Mandate (90-minute teleconference)
» Download the Materials   

The Hidden Cost of Empathy: How to Address Secondary Trauma Stress in a Child Law Office (article)
Tips for Young Lawyers: How to Avoid Burnout as a Children's Lawyer (article)
Compassion Fatigue: Caveat Caregiver? (article)*

Cathy Krebs is the committee director of the Children's Rights Litigation Committee.

Copyright © 2018, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).