Various research studies have been done with the aim to prove that the counseling profession can have adverse effects on its practitioners. Complaints of burnout, vicious trauma, work-related stress and finally secondary traumatic stress have extensively been researched resulting in several publications about the importance of therapist’s self-care. A most recent aspect of therapist’s self-care that is discussed in this literature is the construct of self-compassion (Patsiopoulos & Buchanan, 2011). This essay is a qualitative study design analysis based on the narrative research.
Self-compassion in psychology is a focus of inquiry that garners evidence of benefits that promote well-being and lowers emotional imbalance (Gilbert, 2005). Most of the research on self-compassion has been carried out using Self-compassion scale, a formula developed by Neff (2003). This continues to showcase a great relationship between self-compassion and psychological health. Studies have proved that self-compassion helps to protect against depression and anxiety.
Through the study, it is realized that self-compassion approach to practitioner’s therapy practices helped the participants to be able to cope more with occupational stress and challenges. This was made possible by the practitioner being able to recognize and addressing signs related to self-depletion, processing decisions and working through ethical dilemmas. Long term practice of self-compassion was reported to give a range of benefits, for example, an overall sense of well-being which includes psychological, physical and emotional health plus a higher spiritual sense of connectedness. Self-compassion was realized to have an association with the development of balance, groundedness, openness, wisdom, clarity, joy, creativity, freedom and an added advantage of experiencing job satisfaction and burnout prevention (Patsiopoulos & Buchanan, 2011).
All participating counselors described that practicing self-compassion had positively improved their ability to relate effectively with clients. It assisted them to handle unrealistic expectations by developing more effective boundaries and a finer balance between counselor’s needs and client’s needs (Patsiopoulos & Buchanan, 2011).
To summarize, the overall outcome of practicing self-compassion improved counselor well-being, counselor effectiveness in the workplace and therapeutic relations with patients.
At the same time, there were several limitations to the study, majorly the lack of generalizing of the findings. The results represented personalized experiences that may not be representative of other participants. Further, the sampling did not put into account ethnic and racial diverse perspectives nor gender perspectives. Limitations may have occurred in using phone interviews. While interviews yielded a lot of information, some had to be rescheduled to enable for face to face contact and an expansion on the interview(Patsiopoulos & Buchanan, 2011).
There were some suggestions made to counselor educators, a number of which are offered as practical solutions geared towards promoting the culture of self compassion. The inclusion of courses or modules on self care and self compassion in to the curriculum is highly recommended in training programs for the practitioners as this could significantly enhance new curriculum development and give an advance preparation to new entrants into the profession. The secondary traumatic stress which is the major problem to the practitioners has extensively been researched resulting in several publications about the importance of therapist’s self-care. The construct of self-compassion is the most recent aspect of therapist’s self care discussed in this literature. The courses should incorporate mindfulness practice, meditation and other self minding or contemplative practices.
Gilbert, P (Ed.). (2005). Compassion: Conceptualisations,research and use in psychotherapy. New York: Routledge.
Neff, K.D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity,2, 85-101.
Patsiopoulos, A. T., & Buchanan, M. J. (2011). The practice of self-compassion in counseling: A narrative inquiry. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(4), 301.