Compassion Fatigue in Probation

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National Institute of Corrections on 9/9/2013 by Lori Whitten

Probation Officers’ Stress and Burnout Associated With Caseload Events

Compassion fatigue is a combination of burnout and secondary trauma that can significantly decrease our effectiveness at work and in life.  Anyone who works with people in distress on a regular basis is at risk.  This is not a medical disease, but if ignored can develop into depression, anxiety, substance abuse or a host of other medical conditions.  Thankfully, there are realistic strategies to combat compassion fatigue and simple awareness is one of the most important.

In addition, education and orientation programs can help officers identify possible caseload events and anticipate their personal impact, allowing officers to identify early signs of stress and burnout, engage in anticipatory coping, and seek support when needed. Such programs can mitigate the negative impacts of caseload events, enhance the resiliency of probation officers, and improve their ability to implement evidence-based practices and their overall quality of work.