From Empathy to Compassion: The Science of Self-Care and Well-Being in Human Services

The experience of compassion involves recognizing the suffering of someone else coupled with a desire and commitment to alleviate that suffering. Compassion is fundamental to human development and has been at the heart of practices designed to cultivate generosity, selflessness and mutual aid for thousands of years. Deep-rooted in our physiology, compassion is woven throughout the quilt of the human experience; we come wired for it. Nonetheless, maintaining compassion has been described as an experience that leads to emotional and physical distress, apathy, disengagement and secondary trauma. Insights from modern neuroscience and mind-body research, however, uncover a different story, indicating the phenomenon of compassion fatigue does not exist. This interactive webinar explores recent discoveries that reveal compassion cultivates resilience and promotes psychological and physical well-being. Findings that illuminate the effects of compassion on the autonomic and central nervous system will be shared as well as research on the experience of empathetic distress fatigue for which compassion seems to be the antidote.

Participants will learn skills for shifting from empathy to compassion to decrease the risk of fatigue, burnout and vicarious trauma, as well as strategies for maintaining a healing presence and staying in service when witnessing human suffering. Participants will have the opportunity to assess their levels of mindfulness, self-compassion and professional quality of life.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the human stress response–how we are wired and move through the world
  • Define empathy and compassion from a neurobiological perspective
  • Identify the difference between compassion fatigue vs. empathetic distress fatigue
  • Assess level of self-compassion, mindfulness and professional quality of life
  • Apply mindfulness, stress resilience and compassion skills training
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