Secondary Traumatic Stress and Compassion Fatigue in First Responders and Other Helping Professions

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Secondary Traumatic Stress and Compassion Fatigue in First Responders and Other Helping Professions

8 June, 2022 @ 1:00 pm 4:00 pm CDT

High-stress helping professionals such as law enforcement, first responders, and healthcare professionals are exposed to secondary traumatic stress (STS) throughout their careers and sometimes experience primary trauma. This exposure to trauma in their professions, mixed with the stress and pressures of the job, can produce symptoms of compassion fatigue (CF). In our current climate, the prevalence of mental health intervention among law enforcement is a conversational topic as departments experience societal pressure to reform policing. This presentation explores the emotional and physical impact of CF and STS on the well-being of those impacted; and how CF, specifically, can exacerbate volatile situations or incidents between first responders and citizens. The presentation will identify specific risk factors and distinguish the difference between burnout and compassion fatigue.

Further, the presentation will present literature on the behavioral outcomes of compassion fatigue in law enforcement officers, specifically, and the implications for the field of counseling among this demographic. Research evidences success and benefits of psychotherapy, psychoeducation, and workplace/peer support programming among law enforcement officers and agencies that implement counseling practices.

Through interactive methods and review of case studies, workshop participants will learn to identify compassion fatigue, and apply counseling and wellness interventions to each case.


Lori J. Watson, PHR

Lori J. Watson, PHR is enrolled in Webster University’s Master of Arts program in Professional Counseling (Clinical Mental Health emphasis). She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, and a Professional in Human Resource (PHR) certification. Watson’s research focus is in the area of vicarious trauma, specifically compassion fatigue (CF) and the impact of CF on first responders and law enforcement professionals. Watson submitted a manuscript on a similar topic to an international criminal justice bulletin.

Watson’s current professional role is Deputy Title IX & HR Coordinator at Webster University; prior to this role she served as a paralegal at the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy where her interest in law solidified. At Webster, Watson provides educational programming on sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking and conducts investigations on sexual harassment claims and provides wellness and mental health programming for the University at large. She has participated in a variety of legal and human resource training and education including Clery Act and Violence Against Women Act compliance, Court Appointed Special Advocate techniques, Interpersonal Communication, Workplace Harassment Prevention and Management, Restoring the Soul After Sexual Trauma, and Understanding Transgender Issues in the Workplace. Watson is a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants, the Missouri Peace Officers Association, the American Counseling Association, and the Association of Title IX Administrators.