Helping the helpers

For mental health workers empathy is an essential aspect of good help. This is also a source for compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatisation or secondary traumatic stress. Early recognition and awareness are crucial to be resilient to these symptoms.

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What kind of problems are they facing? Guidelines and manuals Vicarious resilience Organisations and sites

What kind of problems are they facing?

The helpers in humanitarian crisis are trying to solve problems sometimes too overwhelming. They are also just human beings, and although they have not went through those catastrophes by themselves, they have to cope with lots of horrible stories and impressions.

Compassion Fatigue, Secondary PTSD, Vicarious PTSD, Dif...

2013 Gift From Within- PTSD Resources

In this webcast Frank Ochberg explains the differences between Compassion Fatigue, Secondary PTSD, burn out, and Caregiver Burden. Our DVD, When Helping Hurts: Preventing & Treating Compassion Fatigue is available for purchase on www.giftfromwith...

Helping the Helpers: Compassion Satisfaction and Compas...


The results of this study imply that supervisors and agencies can impact the amount of self-care their staff participate in, potentially resulting in staff who have higher levels of compassion satisfaction and lower levels of burnout or secondary tra...

The Importance of Helping the Helper

2002Roger Friedman, in Trauma and Child Welfare,

The article provides with an overview over the problems and psychological consequences helpers are facing, by taking care of clients in very difficult and almost catastrophic situations, with focus on social workers in Child Welfare.


Guidelines and manuals

For many local helpers, there may often not be any support or resources at all to deal with this. If possible, meet regularly with other helpers to discuss your experiences and feelings, or do things together and take advantage of the guidelines and tools listed here.

Stress Management in Disasters

2001The Pan American Health Organization/WHO, Cyralene P. Bryce

This workbook (26 p) describes the SMID concept (Stress Management in Disasters in the Caribbean), a “comprehensive, peer-driven, multi-component stress management program which is administered on a volunteer basis and was designed to prevent and to ...

Addressing occupational stress among health staff in no...

2018Othman, Steel, Lawsin and Wells

Following the programme, staff reported significant reductions in role ambiguity, and improvements in the nature of their work, personal relationships with colleagues and superiors and physical conditions in the workplace. There were no significant d...

Insights into the Concepts of Stress

2001The Pan American Health Organization/WHO, Bryce

This workbook (80 p) is together with the workbook mentioned above, to describe the SMID concept. Both workbooks were designed to provide the basic training material for persons who will provide help for the helpers.

Caring for volunteers

2012IFRC Psychosocial Centre

A new “Caring for Volunteers, a Psychosocial Support Toolkit,” will help National Societies not only prepare volunteers but also support them during and after disasters, conflicts and other dramatic events. The toolkit contains practical tools for pr...

Manual on human rights monitoring – trauma and self car...


Vicarious trauma refers to the negative reactions that can occur when hearing about someone else’s traumatic experiences. Human rights defenders and officers are at risk of vicarious trauma when they interview victims of human rights violations and h...

Secondary Traumatic Stress


Each year more than 10 million children in the United States endure the trauma of abuse, violence, natural disasters, and other adverse events. These experiences can give rise to significant emotional and behavioural problems that can profoundly disr...

Self-Care Assessment Worksheet

Brown University

This assessment tool provides an overview of effective strategies to maintain self-care. After completing the full assessment, choose one item from each area that you will actively work to improve. Another example of post month assessment sheet.

Managing Stress in the Field


This leaflet is designed as a practical tool for delegates before, during and after their mission. Its aim is to help them to recognize, prevent and reduce stress in the Field.

Managing stress in humanitarian workers

2012Antares Foundation

Humanitarian relief and rehabilitation agencies have to operate in a continuing changing context of increasing complexity. Often the work of their staff in the field is seriously hampered by deteriorating security, decreasing respect for their work a...

Online Training Programs

Headington Institute

The Headington Institute provides also some other very good online training courses to download/do online.

Professional Quality of Life Elements Theory and Measur...

2010Stamm et al.

This test provides with material to estimate the impact, the possible burnout or compassion fatigue in the helpers in disaster.


Vicarious resilience

“As with vicarious trauma, awareness is a key factor in vicarious resilience because when we know such an experience exists we are more likely to recognize and benefit from it. Vicarious resilience specifically recognizes the value of observing resilience in our trauma-survivor clients." Gangsei

Vicarious resilience: a new concept in work with those ...

2007Pilar Hernández, David Gangsei, David Engstrom

This study explores the formulation of a new concept: vicarious resilience. It addresses the question of how psychotherapists who work with survivors of political violence or kidnapping are affected by their clients’stories of resilience. It fo...

Vicarious Trauma, Vicarious Resilience and Self-Care


This essay examines the phenomenon of vicarious trauma, its impact on those who work with traumatized clients and the importance of self-care.

Exploring the impact of Trauma on Therapists: Vicarious...

2010Hernalndez, Gangsei, Engstrøm

An integrative training framework articulating multiple perspectives on the impact of trauma work is offered with a training/supervision exercise to address the complex and systemic relationships that affect therapists in both positive and negative m...

Vicarious traumatization and vicarious resilience: an e...


The purpose of this qualitative, descriptive study was to explore clinicians’ experience of vicarious traumatization and/or vicarious resilience in working with refugee clients in order to gain a better understanding of vicarious trauma and the ways ...

Vicarious Trauma and Resilience


The purpose of this course is to expand health and mental health professionals’ abilities to identify and understand countertransference reactions common in work with trauma survivors, the causes and signs of burnout and compassion fatigue, and facto...


Organisations and sites

It finds large organizations that have the resources and knowledge about this particular kind of stress may have reduced capacity to deal with or take care of the affected personnel. Here are some useful links to organizations and sites distributing information on helping the helpers.

Green Cross

The Green Cross is an international, humanitarian assistance organization, non-profit corporation comprised of trained traumatologists and compassion fatigue service providers. The organization is oriented to helping people in crisis following trauma...

Gift from Within

The Centre for Humanitarian Psychology

The Centre for Humanitarian Psychology (CHP) is an international organisation whose aim is to provide psychological support to humanitarian workers in the field. We work through a network of professionals who are both psychologists and familiar with ...

Centre for Humanitarian Psychology

The Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support (PS Centre) works under the framework of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), and supports National Societies in promoting and enabling the psychosocial well-being of ben...

Headington Institute

Care for caregivers. To promote welness through training for caregivers. Sharing information on how workers in the field can deal with stressful situations. The Headington Institute provides some good online training courses. On their site you will...

Antares Foundation

This is a non-profit organization, its mission is to improve the quality of management and staff support and care in humanitarian and developmental organizations.

Professional Quality of Life

This website gives some overview and help in case of compassion fatigue, burnout and related topics. Created by dedicated people working as psychologists, historians and in other fields.

Mental Health & Psychosocial Network

The MHPSS Network is a growing global platform for connecting people, networks and organizations, for sharing resources and for building knowledge related to mental health and psychosocial support both in emergency settings and in situations of chron...