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Babette Rothschild video: How to Avoid Vicarious Trauma and Therapist Burnout

Babette Rothschild on controlling empathic imagery, tracking our autonomic arousal in-session, the dangers of facial feedback – and the simple body awareness practices that can help us stay on ‘terra firma’ in the midst of client trauma.

Working With Suicide, Self-Harm & Trauma Online Summit

16-17 November 2023

Compassion fatigue can feel like a professional inevitability at the moment. Practising through the pandemic has left many of us on the verge of burnout and experiencing vicarious trauma.

But there are simple things we can do – in-session practices we can adopt, and some erroneous notions we can shed – to help ourselves, and our clients, out of the danger zone.

In other words, overwhelm isn’t inevitable. There are many things we can control.

World-renowned trauma therapist Babette Rothschild is fond of saying that she isn’t selling us anything more than common sense. (We all know about the importance of self-care, for instance – the issue is that not enough of us do it.)

But in this free video, the author of The Body Remembers identifies some commonplace yet misguided elements of practice that we often do naturally, or out of a mistaken notion that they are helpful to our clients.

These not only place therapists needlessly at risk of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout, Babette argues – they impede our ability to think clearly, to process, to problem solve, and therefore to help our traumatised clients.

In this stimulating one-hour discussion, we hear Babette’s views on the limited value of empathy in therapeutic work.

We find out about the neurobiological phenomenon of facial feedback, and her belief that this is often mistaken for the process of projective identification.

We learn why being willing to interrupt clients is a necessary quality for a trauma therapist.

And we hear why empathic imagery – picturing in our mind a client’s traumatic experience – carries huge risk.

“The more you resonate with a client, the more you try to feel with them, the more you try to imagine and even picture their experience, the more vulnerable you’re going to be to being affected and infected by their distress,” Babette says.

“… If you get down there in the pit with them, how can you help them out?”

Learn how we can stay on “terra firm” by tracking our own autonomic arousal – and hear what research is telling us about the role of mid-session mindful awareness in decreasing our risk of burnout.


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The PESI UK Blog: our lively editorial platform, serving you with enriching and engaging reads from world-leading therapists, psychologists and other key voices several times a week.

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