psych2psych provides resources and suggestions for mental health professionals facing challenges in their personal and professional lives. It's primary focus is on the shared trauma experience--the situation where we collaterally experience the same traumatic event as the community we serve. Typically we think of this occurring as a consequence of a catastrophic event such as Hurricane Katrina, 9-11, earthquake or other natural disaster, but it also could include the experience of man-made trauma (OKC or Virginia Tech shootings), providing mental health services to military personnel in forward positions, or living in a sustained traumatic event (e.g., the Israeli/Palestinian experience). It is also for the stressed--and distressed--provider.
Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, many of us shared with the community the destruction of our homes, the scattering of families, the deaths of friends and colleagues (some by suicide), the loss of jobs, and a lack of community resources. It was hard to care for ourselves and meet our own physical and psychological needs when the demand for our skills and talents were high, the needs pervasive, and the resources few. In the immediate aftermath of this storm, 85% of mental health care providers--and many medical providers-- left the city. Many came back only long enough to close out their lives, and moved on. Some came and stayed for a year or more, looked at their options, and found jobs elsewhere. A few came back and stayed. Those of us who stayed or returned quickly found that our 'formal' caseloads had virtually exploded, and our 'informal' caseloads - best captured by the medical term "curbside consults" expanded exponentially.
Much has been written on the risks and realities of our professional work, including compassion fatigue, secondary stress/trauma. and vicarious trauma. Briefly stated, when any event of major note comes to our communities, we are at risk of becoming worn out physically and emotionally because of the populations we serve, because we are repeatedly hearing about their problems or trauma, and because we are struggling with our own responses, both to the trauma and to what our patients, colleagues, supervisors and friends share with us during these times when everyone's needs and anxieties are high.
We all laugh, joke and tell stories about the stress in our lives, private and personal. Distress happens when those venues aren't sufficient to the need. Many psychologists in these situations become what we refer to as "distressed." A relatively smaller number become genuinely impaired. We want to provide a resource for professionals to use before they become impaired.
There are few resources for "distressed" practitioners. State professional organizations in psychology (including the licensure boards) have worked with the APA Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA) with mixed outcomes. In those states which have established intervention programs, most have focused on the impaired professional.
In the continuum moving from "stressed" to "distressed" we may come to think of ourselves as defective or bad; we may worry about the quality of care we provide to others, or may consider abandoning the work we once loved. There are few resources available to the mental health professional seeking help for themselves, to swap stories, be nurtured, or to find support without feeling that they are impaired. This website is one small attempt to address that need. We particularly hope that this site meets some of the needs of the distressed professional.
Over time, we hope this site will become a virtual peer to peer support group, open to all mental health providers. To that end, we have created a blog, and invite your participation. If we've got it set up right, you can make an entry using a nickname, and without disclosing your email address, but as with everything else on the internet, there are limits to confidentiality. We would be remiss if we did not remind you of those.
1. It is important that you know that we are not part of any state or national organization.
2. The peer support and other resources available here should not be construed as a substitute for psychotherapy or formal supervision, and we encourage your use of other potentially useful resources at the local, state and national level. Moving forward it is our plan to post web-based links to these resources.
3. Finally, we are not an emergency resource; please seek services in your community if needed. We will monitor the blog, but it is NOT monitored 24/7.
Just a few rules: 1. Primum non nocere. First, do no harm. Bullying, name calling and personal insults are not acceptable. 2. Please remain professional and respectful of others. 3. Please help, contribute, share ideas, experiences and resources.
psych2psych does not provide direct psychotherapy or professional services, nor does it endorse the use of specific techniques or approaches to recovery from professional stress and trauma. We hope over time to provide bibliographies and links to organizations and websites related to professional stress and trauma. We can be reached back-channel at firstname.lastname@example.org