Emerge and Spread Your Wings

Cycle of Caring

When working in caring professions, with the constant stream of clients and their needs, how do we maintain our wellbeing and resilience without ending up feeling as drained as a dishrag?

I’ve been dipping into The Resilient Practitioner, by Thomas Skovholt and Michelle Trotter-Mathison, to explore their wealth of knowledge on this subject.

The authors identify that our desire to care for others, one reason most of us get into our professions, can also trip us up. While Caring is essential in relationship-rich careers, the constantly high levels of need and personal connection can make us vulnerable to burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and other mental health challenges.

By analysing research into resilience Skovolt and Trotter-Mathison have identified key proficiencies. These can support a practitioner to maintain a career in a caring profession while remaining resilient against burnout. They align these skills to the stages of client engagement in their model – the Cycle of Caring.

The Cycle of Caring

The Cycle of Caring has 4 Stages which can be evident both within an individual client session, and over a period of intervention with a client (for instance a six-session contract)

Step 1: Optimal Attachment – the stage of building rapport with a client, requires empathy and the professional opening themselves up to care about the client

Step 2: Active Involvement – the specific intervention phase – our “mahi”- dependent upon our professional focus. This phase requires constant engagement, and emotional caring, about the client and their needs

Step 3: Felt Separation – the stage of completing the intervention with a client in a mutually successful way, and stepping away from the relationship emotionally

Step 4: Re-creation – the essential step of taking a break to recharge, replenish and step out of the role, before beginning the cycle again with another client

I’ll explore these stages in more detail over the next few blog posts. What stood out for me with this concept of a “Cycle of Caring” is the recognition that we can be “good at our job” and very competent with some aspects of this cycle, but not always all of them. The authors suggest that the professional who successfully navigates a long term career in caring professions without burning out is likely to be a “highly skilled relationship maker who constantly attaches, is involved in, separates well, steps away from the professional intensity, then does it again with a new person”.

Do you find each of these stages equally easy, or are there some stages that are a challenge? Targeting specific strategies and skill-building in areas where you may feel less comfortable may lead to more wellbeing in your practice. More ideas on “How?” to come in my next blog.

In the meantime for some suggestions on Re-Creation you might like to check out Disconnect to Connect