We are all aware of the hazards of vicarious trauma and the toll that burnout can take on sexual assault advocates. On the organizational level, burnout can lead to excessive turnover, poor morale, and decreased work performance.
Supporting self-care for staff members needs to move beyond a focus on encouraging individuals to be kind to themselves. We need to integrate comprehensive self-care strategies into our management policies, practices, and plans.
How can an organization support self-care? Here are some suggestions:
- Integrate self-care activities into your strategic plan.
- Create an explicit policy that highlights the organizational value of self-care and identifies permissible activities.
- Include education about vicarious trauma and self-care in the orientation process and ongoing training.
- Set up regular opportunities for self-care as part of the office routine, such as "check-ins" about well-being during staff meetings, opportunities to debrief after particularly stressful interactions, supervisor-approved time to relax and process difficult concerns, mentorship between staff members, and access to additional supervision time in response to heightened stress.
- Don't forget FUN! Including fun activities in meetings and retreats is not frivolous. We need fun to recharge.
- Remember to model positive self-care. When managers take good care of themselves, the organization benefits. Spa day, anyone?
Clear communication, appropriate supervision, and fair management practices reduce unnecessary stress for advocates. Seek feedback to ensure you are meeting these needs.