Befriending Compassion Fatigue Lesson Three CE Professional Learning Guide

Befriending Compassion Fatigue Series

CE Professional Group Track Learning Guide

Lesson Three: Empathy


-The first step is ACT ONE. This interactive form section will give you an opportunity to delve deeply into the concepts behind our lesson and reflect on how they connect to your life and your role as caregiver. A critical element for the success of an ACT Learning Group is to provide some time and space for personal reflection and journaling.

-After completing this step, ACT TWO is a period of group discussion and reflection. All participants must be given a safe space to express themselves during this time. This portion of the interactive form is filled out with insights gained from your community exploration.

-Next, your group will move on to ACT THREE, the Best Practicesreal-world habits, ways of thinking, or behaving that can increase personal well-being. Goals to incorporate best practice suggestions can be made on the group or individual level and support systems can be developed during this time.

ACT Step One: Individual Reflection

Completed forms may be printed out by pressing CTRL button + P (Windows) or CMD button + P (Mac).

By submitting this form you are agreeing to contribute to our national research project. All information will be used anonymously.

ACT Step Two: Group Discussion

1. “In addition to being able to be fully present, Karen was very clear that she wasn’t able to ‘fix’ the underlying problem. She wasn’t attached to any particular outcome. Instead, she was just willing to make the journey with [us]” - Soul & Science Lesson

2. “You’ll notice all of the symptoms of compassion fatigue will fit into one of these three categories…” - Soul & Science Lesson

3. “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to walk through water without getting wet.” - Rachel Naomi Ramen MD

4. “There is a large number of literature references that support a mindfulness practice in developing the ability to notice and down regulate empathic hyperarousal.” - Soul & Science Lesson

Completed forms may be printed out by pressing CTRL button + P (Windows) or CMD button + P (Mac).

By submitting this form you are agreeing to contribute to our national research project. All information will be used anonymously.

ACT Step Three: Best Practices – (Choose at Least One)

1. “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”- Psychology Today

Practice a ten minute experience with mindfulness.

-Set a timer for 10 minutes.

-Close your eyes.


-Notice your breath.

-Thoughts will intrude, notice them, thank your brain for doing what it does, marvel at your thought’s ability to distract you, and then bring yourself back to the breath.

-You may be distracted fifty times in this ten minutes exercise, but don’t self-criticize.  You are developing your role as observer.  Commit to doing this for ten minutes each day for the next two weeks.  Journal about your experience.

2. “In the practice of Yoga one can emphasize the body, the mind or the self and hence the effort can never be fruitless.” ― T. Krishnamacharya

A very effective mindfulness practice is yoga. If you have no experience with yoga, try the mountain pose, an important, but very approachable, yoga pose as described in the article “7 Beginner Yoga Poses to Get You Through Your First Class” by Rachel Jacoby Zoldan. If you already have a yoga practice, add the intention to increase your empathy and mindfulness in caregiving as part of your routine.

“What to Know: ‘The mother of all yoga poses,’ according to Ingber, ‘mountain only looks easy.’ But this two-footed stance is the foundation for many others you’ll encounter that require awareness and balance. ‘It is through this pose that one finds the proper alignment and shape for additional movements,’ she says.

How to Do It: Stand with feet together and arms at your side. Ground your feet, making sure all four corners are pressed down. Next, straighten legs, then tuck your tailbone in as you engage your thigh muscles. As you inhale, elongate through your torso and extend arms up, then out. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist as you release arms back to your sides.”

 3. “A diverse pattern of verbal and nonverbal activity communicates distress to others and permits inferences about the nature and severity of pain.” – Kenneth D. Craig, PhD

The messages of suffering can both be verbal and nonverbal. The tone and level of emotion in a room is often set by the nonverbal cues. It is important to identify the messages from those we are caring for and this information will help us mirror appropriate levels of empathy.

To accomplish this, practice the “93 percent rule.” A study by UCLA Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian, found that verbal communication only accounts for 7 percent of the messages sent. That means that 93 percent is found in tone of voice and body language. When entering a room pause and take a moment to “read” the nonverbal communication. Consciously decide how to respond to these messages and consciously be aware of the messages you are sending through nonverbal cues.

Closing Thought

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
-Henri J.M. Nouwen

Additional Resources