265 Empathic Protection

Based on research by Turgoose, David, Glover, N., Barker, C., & Maddox, Lucy (2017) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.

How can police officers, therapists, attorneys, and victim advocates continue to work with trauma? Do they get used to the pain and suffering of others?

Anyone can experience burnout from feeling overworked and stressed. However, those in helping professions who work with people in distress are at higher risk.  Compassion fatigue is the term used to describe the loss of motivation and ability to alleviate suffering.  What’s the best way to manage it?

Psychologists evaluated 142 British police officers in a special unit who worked specifically with rape and sexual assault survivors. Participants answered questions about their levels of compassion fatigue, emotional and psychological exhaustion, and secondary traumatic stress.  They took tests measuring their empathy level and burnout.

Results revealed, surprisingly, police officers with higher levels of empathy displayed lower levels of burnout. The researchers stated that empathically engaging with victims may serve as a protective factor against burnout.  They hypothesized seeing things from the victim’s view, and understanding their feelings, helps them feel empathy and may give their work purpose and meaning.

Helping professionals, don’t be afraid to connect and feel for those you are helping. Learn to de-stress.  Know your work is important.


Turgoose, David, Glover, N., Barker, C., & Maddox, L. (2017, March 2). Empathy, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout in Police Officers Working With Rape Victims. Traumatology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/trm0000118

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