Compassion Stress/Fatigue

Compassion Stress/Fatigue (CS/CF) has been defined as a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for others in significant emotional pain and physical distress (Anewalt, 2009; Figley, 1995)

Compassion Satisfaction

Compassion Satisfaction is about the pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well. For example, you may feel like it is a pleasure to help others through your work. You may feel positively about your colleagues or your ability to contribute to the work setting or, even, the greater good of society. (

Post Traumatic Stress/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event outside the range of normal human experience characterized by:

  1. Re-experiencing: spontaneous memories of the traumatic event, recurrent dreams related to it, flashbacks or other intense or prolonged psychological distress.
  2. Avoidance: avoiding distressing memories, thoughts, feelings or external reminders of the event.
  3. Negative cognitions and mood represents myriad feelings, from a persistent and distorted sense of blame of self or others, to estrangement from others or markedly diminished interest in activities, to an inability to remember key aspects of the event.
  4. Arousal is marked by aggressive, reckless or self-destructive behavior, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance or related problems.  

PTSD is diagnosed when the above symptoms last longer one month following an event.

This definition comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5 (DSM5).

Secondary Traumatic Stress

Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Resilience is the ability to recover from, or adjust easily, to misfortune or change. (Merriam-Webster

Trauma/Primary Trauma

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event, like an accident, rape or a natural disaster.
(American Psychological Association)

Trauma-informed programs, organizations or systems are those that respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, practices; and seek to actively resist re-traumatization. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Traumatic Stress/Critical Incident Stress

Critical Incidents (CIs) are highly stressful situations, a traumatic event (or perceived life-threatening event) that has sufficient power to overwhelm an individual's ability to cope.

Normal physical and psychological responses occur which place considerable pressure upon that person.  When the stressor becomes extremely threatening, overwhelming or severe, it often produces a heightened state of cognitive, emotional and behavioral arousal called Traumatic Stress. (Traumatic Stress [TS] and Critical Incident Stress [CIS] are terms that are often used interchangeably.)
 After having been exposed to traumatic stress, employees may experience a range of reactions including deterioration of job performance, personality change, anxiety states, relationship discord, grief reactions, depression and suicidal ideations. These effects can be immediate, appear later or both. (US Department of Health and Human Services)

Vicarious Resilience

Vicarious Resilience involves the process of learning about overcoming adversity from the trauma survivor and the resulting positive transformation and empowerment through their empathy and interaction. (Hernandez,  Gangsei, and Engstrom, 2007)

Vicarious Traumatization

Vicarious Traumatization (VT) is the transformation that occurs within the therapist (or other trauma workers) as a result of empathic engagement with clients' trauma experiences and their sequelae.

Such engagement includes listening to graphic descriptions of horrific events, bearing witness to people's cruelty to one another, and witnessing and participating in traumatic reenactments (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995a). Vicarious traumatization is an occupational hazard for those who work with trauma survivors (Munroe et al., 1995).

The experience of VT includes a disruption in thinking and changes in beliefs. These may include shifts in:

  • one’s sense self (“I am powerless,” “I am broken,” “I am weak”)
  • safety in the world (“I am vulnerable” or “I can’t keep myself or family safe”)
  • the belief that people are naturally good and trustworthy  (“I can’t trust anyone”)
  • spiritual belief (“If there were a God…” or “Why does evil happen?”)

Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K. W. (1995a). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: Norton

Munroe, J. E, Shay, J., Fisher, L., Makary, C, Rapperport, K., & Zimering, R. (1995). Preventing compassion fatigue: A team treatment model. In C. R. Figley (Ed.), Compassion fatigue: Secondary traumatic stress disorder from treating the traumatized (pp. 209-231). New York: Brunner/Mazel.