Mini Grant SenseMaker Project Story or Micro-Narrative
Working on Center for Child Counseling’s training, Healing the Healers: Creating Happy Healthy Healers and a Happy Healthy Workforce, during this global pandemic has been an interesting and eye-opening endeavor. In our lifetime, there has never been a more challenging time in health and mental health care in terms of the major stressors professionals and clients/patients alike are experiencing at the same time. Working as a helper/healer has always been a challenging and stressful career choice, although for those who survive and thrive in such careers long-term, we also find tremendous reward, satisfaction, and joy from our work. However, with the stress of COVID-19, as well as other concurrent stressors (racial unrest/violence, rise in hate speech and hate crimes, political polarization and upheaval) that we have experienced in the US in the past year, there has been significant rise in the need for both health and mental health care, pushing our medical mental health institutions/providers to the limit, and significantly and adversely impacting the well-being of many of helpers/healers, for example, increased rates of anxiety, depression, acute and posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide seen in frontline healthcare workers.For helping and healing professionals, it has always been important for us to think and talk about stress, vicarious trauma, burnout, compassion fatigue, stress management, compassion satisfaction, resilience building, self-regulation, and self-care, although it is often overlooked or under-focused upon by our training programs, as well as supervisors and administrators in the institutions and agencies where we work. Honestly, I personally have significant regrets that I did not spend enough time on these topics in the many years I was an administrator overseeing and supervising a team of child trauma therapists. It is easy to overly focus on our interventions/treatments with our clients, measuring outcomes, paperwork, billing, etc., but doing so without concurrently focusing on the topics included in our Healing the Healers training is very short-sighted. Client care and health of our organizations/institutions directly relates to health and well-being of the individual workers. In the current climate, our need to focus on these topics is greatly magnified and must be in the forefront of our conversations as helpers/healers. The overused, but nevertheless very important analogy of putting your own oxygen mask on a plane during an emergency before helping others with theirs rings abundantly true today! Plus, the good news is that even in the face of COVID-19 and other concurrent societal stressors, there are strategies to combat stress on an individual and organizational level that can dramatically improve the well-being of all helpers/healers, including those most vulnerable to stress, and this, in turn, will lead to improved care of all of clients/patients and healthier, better-functioning organizations. With that being said, once our team completed a first draft of our Healing the Healers presentation, Power Point and notes, and the pandemic dragged on (with all the associated personal and professional issues it created for helpers/healers and their patients/clients alike), we realized that there was a need to expand this part of our presentation to include the latest anecdotal and research data on the impact COVID-19 was having on helping /healing professionals, and what support and assistance was most needed at this time. We have now done this, while continuing to monitor the emerging literature, so we can make any necessary updates to our presentation. At this point, we have a rich 4.5-hour Power Point presentation completed that covers the types and roles of helpers/heaters; causes and types of stress; biology/physiology of stress; ACEs and their relationship to stress and well-being; impacts of stress (burnout, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue); challenges faced by specific groups of helpers/healers (African-American and other minority and LGBTQ healers); COVID-19 and the impact on helpers/healers; and self-care, self-regulation, and resilience building. Our next step is to record the presentation, so we can the disseminate it before we as an organization are able to return to doing live trainings. Even though we cannot do this training live at this time, in addition to information we included in the training, we have added videos, role-plays, activities, and resources to make it as engaging and interactive as possible. We are stuck by how timely and important this training is for our community of helpers/healers, and we feel so grateful to have the opportunity and funding to do this at the very time it is so desperately needed.