story by Claire Miller
Mental health and rehabilitation counselors are trained to help their clients work through their toughest struggles.
But over time, how do counselors working with trauma survivors prevent themselves from experiencing burnout or secondary traumatic stress?
Assistant Professor Melissa Zeligman and Associate Professor Franco Dispenza developed a research project focused on the connection between counselor wellness and mindfulness, or the practice of paying attention to one’s experiences moment by moment.
This summer, Zeligman and Dispenza recruited counselors who have worked with trauma survivors to see how their participation in a structured mindfulness group makes an impact on their professional quality of life.
They found that those in the mindfulness group became more mindful and self-aware compared to those in a control group that didn’t receive any mindfulness training. Zeligman and Dispenza presented these findings at the 2018 Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling Conference and are expanding the project this academic year to include counselors-in-training and others who work in the counseling profession.
“Mindfulness has been used in other helping professions and with clients in counseling to reduce trauma symptoms while increasing quality of life and overall well-being,” Zeligman said. “Therefore, we anticipate that mindfulness could have similar impacts on counselors who may face symptoms consistent with compassion fatigue, and in turn assist their clients in maintaining quality clinical care.”