In addition to working with children and their families, our common, great professional love is working with experts and helpers

HELPER'S RISKS

On one hand, working with people who are in need is extremely fulfilling and meaningful, while on the other hand it can be exhausting and risky for (mental) health of the helper. Unfortunately, in our country there is a great lack of concern for our own well-being as well as lack of systematic support and training of experts in this aspect. Employees of the social welfare and health care systems, and to a certain extent of education system, are systematically and daily in situations of intense occupational stress. High responsibility for clients, which is coupled with, very often, adverse working conditions, misunderstanding of employers and high expectations of clients and the environment contributes to phenomena such as secondary traumatization and burnout at work.

INDIRECT TRAUMA

Indirect or secondary trauma in helpers is described as "trauma consisting of events which clients describe to their helpers, and these events then indirectly traumatize the helpers" (Pregrad, editor, 1996). The ability to live through other's experience and empathize or putting yourself into someone else's shoes, as well as increased sensitivity to other people's suffering, are the main motivators in choosing a profession and the necessary tools that helpers work with. At the same time, these traits are also the highest risk factor for the development of indirect traumatization of helpers.

BURNOUT AT WORK

Burnout burnoutrefers to the syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and diminution of personal achievement that occurs in response to long-term chronic workplace stress. Its occurrence is linked to situations where there is a discrepancy between the demands of the environment, our expectations that we will meet those requirements, and our real capacity to meet them. Signs of burnout, among others, include loss of interest in people we help, frustration, lack of interest in communicating with others, cynicism, insensitivity to other people's needs, feeling helpless and hopeless, sleeping problems, withdrawal, isolation, frequent illness and reduced life satisfaction.

HELPER'S ISOLATION

These are very serious and important problems. Unfortunately, there is not enough understanding in the system, and consequently no systematic support for employees. Also, there is still a very strong attitude, even among the helpers themselves, that the one who talks about the problems, the one who "lets the work affect him badly", the one who can't handle it - is not a good expert or is a "weak one". This attitude strongly contributes to the feeling of loneliness and isolation of the helper experts. Research and the available literature say the opposite. The most susceptible to these phenomena are those who show high commitment to work and high degree of empathy - and in the assisting professions, empathy is a key tool for work, one that cannot be learned but can be worn off or preserved.

VICARIOUS RESILIENCE

Fortunately, while this may not seem like it at first, there are many ways we can get and find support in this difficult job and thus take responsibility for our own (mental) health without giving up the profession we have chosen and love.

For several years, we have been studying and researching vicarious resilience as a counterweight to secondary traumatization. We have designed programs and trainings to support and strengthen experts in the helping professions and will be happy to share our insights with you through supervision, consultancy support, educational groups and support groups.

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