EMPATHINK Conference, Melbourne, March 2018

By Dr George Halasz

Posted on 6 March, 2018 under News

Why am I sharing my reflections from the recent EMPATHINK conference in Melbourne?
I wrote my refections immediately after attending a recent professional conference to highlight the fact that if we are exposed to the stresses of trying to counsel, treat, offer therapy or any form of support to people who have had stressful, painful and traumatic experiences, like sexual abuse, (but not limited to them), then, as professionals, we should be aware that all of us are prone to experience some distress, especially if we open ourselves up to show compassion…and listen with empathy not just to the ‘facts’.
If the situation is dire enough, then some of us will become so distressed and stressed, that we move from merely ‘suffering’ our discomfort. We may actually take on the very trauma that the person we are trying to help has survived. All this takes place, notwithstanding the idea that some professionals promote – so called ”vicarious resilience’.
The condition of vicarious trauma, and the process vicarious traumatisation, has been so named since 1990.
This serious condition is not just everyday ‘exhaustion’ or even ‘burnout’ or ‘compassion fatigue’.
if not recognised and dealt with appropriately, then, in time, as the trauma accumulates, be it in parents of children with physical or mental health issues, or in professionals then, if we do not deal with the condition, not only do we suffer, but those we treat we find we can no longer ‘listen’ to them with empathy and compassion. They also suffer.
As therapists, some of us often defer to ‘drug therapy’ as a substitute for ‘listening’ with empathic concern, at least where it comes to trauma and dissociation, preferring to ‘diagnose’ a condition for which medication may be prescribed.
Of course I am not against prescribing mediation for the right indication, be it for depression, panic attacks, ADHD, psychos or many other conditions.
So for these reasons, to bring to our awareness these developments in mental health as it undergoes what is know as a paradigm change, I share my reflections as discussed at this most recent Conference
Here are I my reflections…

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