What we began in the 1990s we understand more in the 2010s
In the simplest terms, Compassion Satisfaction, (CS) and Compassion Fatigue (CF) can be through of in simple terms as the positive aspects of helping or the "Good Stuff" (CS) and the negative aspects of helping, that is the "Bad Stuff" (CF) associated with our work as helpers.
Thinking in terms of the good things and bad things associated with helping others who experience suffering is not a theory. However, research over the past 20 years has helped us clarify the theory of Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue and create a data informed theoretical model of (CS-CF Model). More detailed information can be found in the ProQOL Manual (Stamm, 2010) on this site.
Data from all over the world and over 3,000 people, as well as discussions with colleagues and reading of the literature have contributed to our refined understanding. This website contains both historical information and our current understanding of Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue. We also provide a very comprehensive bibliography of over 1,000 papers on the topic.
One important thing we have learned about Compassion Fatigue, as we have similarly learned about Vicarious Traumatization, is that people reference the original work but do not recognize the newer work on the topic. A great deal of work has been done since the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. We encourage you to read this website, and to review the more current literature. We have included the bibliography on this site so that you can find quickly the papers that are relevant to your work.
We have also learned that Compassion Satisfaction is an important part of the whole (see Stamm, 2002). We have learned that neither Vicarious Traumatization or Compassion Fatigue are synonyms of PTSD or of secondary traumatic stress (Figley & Roop, 2006; Pearlman & Carnigi, 2009; Stamm, 2006; Stamm, 2010). People can experience negative effects of secondary exposure without developing a psychological disorder such as PTSD. Compassion Fatigue is not a diagnosis. It is possible that Compassion Fatigue is a descriptive term and that a person struggling with Compassion Fatigue also has a psychological disorder. For example, people who suffer with burnout may also have a diagnosable level of depression. Similarly, people may have a diagnosable level of PTSD or some other mental, emotional or physical disorder that is likely linked to their experience of compassion fatigue. Increasing importance is being placed on resiliency and transformation of negative to positive aspects (Pearlman & Carnigi, 2009; Stamm & Figley, 2009; Stamm, Figley & Figley, 2010).
Figley, C.R. & Roop, R.G.(2006). Compassion Fatigue in the Animal-Care Community. Humane Society Press.
Pearlman, L.A., & Caringi, J. (2009). Living and working self-reflectively to address vicarious trauma. In C.A. Courtois & J.D. Ford (Eds.), Treating complex traumatic stress disorders: An evidence-based guide (pp. 202-224). New York: Guilford Press.
Stamm, B.H. & Figley, C.R. & Figley, K. R. (2010, November). Provider Resiliency: A Train-the-Trainer Mini Course on Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue. International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Montreal, Quebeque, Canada.
Stamm, B.H. & Figley, C.R. (2009, November) Advances in the Theory of Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue and its Measurement with the ProQOL 5. . International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Atlanta, GA.
Stamm, B. H. (2002). Measuring compassion satisfaction as well as fatigue: Developmental history of the compassion satisfaction and fatigue test. Figley, Charles R (ed.). Treating compassion fatigue, (pp 107-119) New York: New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Stamm, B. H. (2006). Recruitment and Retention of a Quality Health Workforce in Rural Areas. Number 10: Health Care Administration, An issue paper from NRHA. National Rural Health Association (2006). National Rural Health Association Issue Paper: Recruitment and Retention Of A Quality Health Workforce in Rural Areas Number 15: Issues of Preserving Rural Professional Quality of Life. Approved by NRHA Policy Board, Author: B. H. Stamm.
Stamm, B.H. (2010) The ProQOL Concise Manual. www.proqol.org.