Toni Knight

Toni Knight

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology (awarded with Distinction), Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Strategic Psychotherapy.

Presentation title: From Compassion fatigue to Compassionate Presence

Outline of presentation:

There is something profoundly irrational about wilfully depleting our body’s wellness to the point of exhaustion and collapse.

Yet the high incidence of burnout worldwide, worsened with the advent of the global pandemic, testifies to our collective willingness to trade our wellness for other goals - survival, material success, status and power, and conformity and approval, among others.

Burnout is now the other worldwide epidemic. And this is especially pertinent to professional caregivers involved in the support and recovery of the afflicted. We endure the combined effects of our own personal struggles with the professional risk of significant compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary trauma.

The convenient solution of ‘self care’ has been promoted extensively in popular media for many years and commercialised as a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.

And yet despite the ubiquitous nature of the ‘self-care solution’, burnout has continued to worsen.

So what gives?

Our Faustian wellness bargain necessarily involves considerable degrees of denial in order manifest in burnout. After all, none of us prioritises our depletion and decline.

At all levels, these denials have persisted. They are a manifestation of humanity, rather than pathology, yet their fruits are destructive.

Denial may begin with symptom blindness and exceptionalism, but extends much further through the workplace, entire industries and society at large. Recognition and responsibility for managing the risk of burnout is given a lower priority than most other aspects of organisational function, despite the cost-effectiveness of this investment, and increasing legislation in some jurisdictions to protect workers and lower the enormous individual and community cost of psychological injury and rehabilitation.

This 90-minute presentation aims to facilitate both awareness and action in workers in the health and allied health industries, to both prioritise and protect their individual and collective wellness to prevent burnout.

While mention is made of the traditional ‘self-care’ strategies, emphasis is placed on addressing the multiple barriers to adequate protection of personal energy in this climate of collective denial.

Compassion fatigue (CF) is an additional risk to professional caregivers, resulting from exposure to the suffering of others, which may include secondary exposure to traumatic material.

The following three-part framework is briefly introduced and explained to facilitate recognition and provide strategies to prevent or treat burnout and CF in professional caregivers.

  1. Energy: professionals will learn how burnout and CF are defined, measured and identified in their earliest stages. The importance of prioritising personal energy management in the context of a culture of denial will be highlighted. Participants will be encouraged to undertake an ‘energy audit’ and craft their job according to evidence-based guidelines. At the individual level, the ‘body-budget’ concept popularised by US neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett will be described, with implications for self-care activities such as diet, exercise, sleep, rest and connection. Successful habit change will be outlined.

2.                  Mindset: participants will be challenged to consider how obedience, conformity and mimetic desire reduce personal efficacy to prevent burnout. Alternatively, identifying and connecting with personal values and priorities provide guidance for life satisfaction and psychological richness. Participants will be reminded of the cognitive styles that increase cognitive load (rumination, perfectionism etc) and those resources that increase cognitive capacity (psychological capital and emotional intelligence).

3.                  Leverage: professionals will consider a range of strategies for before, during and after a client session to minimise the risk of CF. Helpful governmental guidance for legislative compliance (eg. NSW, Australia) will be showcased as a model for useful standards in managing psychosocial risks in the workplace. Participants will consider the immense value in seeking peer support for creating a nurturing ‘greenhouse’ work environment and group advocacy for workplace change. Finally, strategies for coping and exiting ‘toxic’ work environments will be described.

All participants will receive a single-page handout that provides guidance on implementing some of these strategies.

 

Name: Toni Knight

Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology (awarded with Distinction), Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Strategic Psychotherapy.  

Experience in the subject area:

Following my own early experience of burnout, I have worked with burnout clients as a psychotherapist for 12 years in the government, non-government, and private practice environments, turning to the public stage in 2018. Since then, I have provided numerous presentations, workshops, and articles on the topic of burnout and compassion fatigue, working with major organisations, small businesses, and a prominent professional association for professional caregivers.

I write regularly on burnout, compassion fatigue and wellness on LinkedIn and I am currently authoring my first book on the topic.


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