Pharaon Consulting Group, Inc. mail

Pharaon Consulting Group, Inc. (PCG) is a consulting company that provides a range of psychological, coaching, and counseling services to individuals, couples, and groups. Founded in 1997 by counseling psychologist Dr. Nora Alarifi Pharaon, PCG is a US-based company with global outreach and focuses on these core offerings:

  • * Consulting
  • * Psychotherapy
  • * Testing and Evaluation
  • * Coaching
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17 Ames Avenue
Rutherford, NJ 07070

Human Security and Dignity for Humanitarian Workers

Dr. Nora Alarifi Pharaon
Psychological Aspects of Human Security and Dignity
Human Security and Dignity: Fulfilling the Promise of the United Nations
The 56th Annual joint United Nations Department of Public Information and Non-Governmental Organizations Conference
http://www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/56conf.htm

September 9, 2003

Human Security and Dignity for Humanitarian Workers

There is a cost to caring. Those who have worked with trauma survivors and have been privileged to contain and bear witness to others pain know that they “open themselves to a deep personal transformation” (Perlman, 1999, p. 15). In a positive way their connections with self and others and their view of life is greatly deepened and enriched. In a negative way, they are assaulted by cumulative trauma in a manner similar to the survivors they work with. This Vicarious Traumatization, is inevitable, and disruptive but capable of being minimized and changed.

In health care, education and social services the conventional model of intervention has been committed to managing acute and emergency situations, much like fire fighters battling blazes.

Who: Professionals who listen to the stories of fear, pain and suffering of others may feel similar fear, pain and suffering because they care. Professionals especially vulnerable to Compassion Fatigue (CF) include emergency care workers, counselors, mental health professionals, medical professionals, clergy, advocate volunteers, and human service workers. If you ever feel as though you are losing your sense of self to the clients you serve-you may be suffering from CF.

History: The concept of CF emerged only in the last several years in the professional literature. It represents the cost of caring about and for traumatized people. Compassion fatigue is the emotional residue of exposure to working with the suffering. Professionals who work with people, particularly people who are suffering, must contend with not only the normal stress or dissatisfaction of work, but also with the emotional and personal feelings for the suffering.

What it is not: Compassion fatigue is not “burnout”. Burnout is associated with stress and hassles involved in your work. It is very cumulative, is relatively predictable and frequently a vacation or change of job helps a great deal.

Symptoms: CF is a state of tension and preoccupation with the individual or cumulative trauma of clients as manifested in one or more ways including reexperiencing the traumatic event, avoidance/numbing of reminders of the event, and persistent arousal. Although similar to critical incident stress (being traumatized by something you actually experience or see), with CF you are absorbing the trauma through the eyes and ears of your clients. It can be thought of as secondary post-traumatic stress. Some of the common symptoms of CF are:

  • Gaps in memory about frightening experiences
  • Feeing of estrangement from others/difficulty with intimacy
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Experiencing troubled dreams
  • Intrusive thoughts/flashbacks of sessions with especially difficult clients
  • Feeling preoccupied with more than one client and their family
  • Feeling trapped by work as a helper
  • Sense of hopelessness associated with working with clients and their families Feeling on edge about various things
  • Feeling weak, tired, rundown, depressed
  • Outbursts of anger or irritability with little provocation
  • Getting startled easily
  • Being too sensitive/increased sense of vulnerability
  • Feeling of inadequacy
  • Feelings of shame and blame
  • Unable to separate personal life from work life
  • Sense of worthlessness/disillusionment/resentment associated with work.

Effect: There are human costs associated with CF. Job performance goes down, mistakes go up. Morale drops and personal relationships are affected-peoples home lives start to deteriorate, personality deteriorates and eventually it can lead to overall decline in general health.

New trends in health care have helped people realize they can have a powerful impact on their own health, healing and the quality of their life. It has become important to address each individual’s life comprehensively in the Center of Body, Mind, and Spirit. Every aspect of a person’s life has either a positive or negative impact on their wellness.

The attempt to change a person’s symptoms and deficiencies without addressing their life style and life skills (diet, exercise, stress mastery relationships, etc.) is like trying to control weeds. You can repeatedly cut off the weed tops (the problem or symptoms) but they will continue to crop up until you have pulled out their roots (the cause).

Guidelines of Self-Care for ameliorating CF:

  1. Maintain a balance of work, play and rest to offset the physical and emotional fatigue of trauma work.
  2. Clarify and underscore your personal sense of self by pursuing activities that re-enforce all aspects of your identity-spouse, parent, tennis partner, soccer coach, gourmet cook, etc.
  3. Identify personal coping skills for reducing stress (time alone, yoga, listening to music, recreational reading, etc.)
  4. Get supervision from someone who understands the kind of work you do.
  5. Identify resources at work for debriefing and support.
  6. Identify and address what you need physically, psychologically, financially in the work place.
  7. Take care of your self physically – diet and sleep and exercise.
  8. Identify relationships that offer understanding and support.
  9. Consider your use of spirituality from organized religion to a more personal joy of nature, awareness of non-material values in life, etc.
  10. Nurture self by being taught something new and unrelated to your work – lessons in bridge, golf, knitting, etc.
  11. Project Resilience (Wolin 2000 in his book A leader’s guide to the struggle to be strong: How to foster resilience in Teens), (www.freespirit.com) considers resiliency a function of intelligence, creativity, sense of humor, insight relationships, taking initiative, maintain a moral code, independence (being your own person) – utilize talents and gifts as a way to stay resilient.
  12. Know and accept your limitations personally and professionally.
  13. Identify those issues, patients, traumas that trigger counter-transferential difficulties. Get supervision or therapy if needed.
  14. Maintain your personal boundaries of time for family, self, rest and play.
  15. Accept the uneven timeline for healing in self and patients.
  16. Seek professional resources outside of your work place for support and help-conferences, on-line support, professional associations
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PGC can help with:

  • Anxiety Disorders
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    • Panic Disorder
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Social Phobia
    • Agoraphobia
    • Binge-eating Disorder
    • Insomnia
  • Adult ADHD
  • Time Management
  • Marital Discord
  • Bonding Evaluation
  • Adoption Evaluation