Compassion Fatigue – Coping Strategies to find Harmony

Compassion fatigue is a common issue among physical therapists and other helping professionals who work with individuals who have experienced trauma, chronic stress, or other challenging situations. It’s a horrible situation for any therapist to find themselves in, but rest assured, there are steps you can take to prevent or address it. 

What is Compassion Fatigue? 

Compassion fatigue is a common issue among physical therapists and other helping professionals who work with individuals who have experienced trauma, chronic stress, or other challenging situations. 

It can result in emotional exhaustion, burnout, and a reduced ability to feel empathy and compassion for others.

What can you do as a Therapist? 

Firstly, don’t panic, know you are not alone.

To prevent compassion fatigue, or to address it, therapists can take several steps to find work-life harmony. Here are a few strategies that may help:

  • Set clear boundaries: Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life can help prevent burnout and promote a healthier work-life balance. For example, consider setting specific work hours and sticking to them, avoiding work-related emails and phone calls outside of those hours, and taking regular breaks throughout the day to recharge.
  • Practice self-care: Engage in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in hobbies. Taking care of oneself can help prevent burnout and promote a sense of well-being.
  • Seek support: Connect with colleagues, mentors, or friends who understand the unique challenges of being a therapist. Consider joining a support group or seeking supervision from a more experienced therapist. Seeking support can help reduce feelings of isolation and promote resilience.
  • Develop a self-reflection practice: Reflect on your experiences as a therapist and engage in self-reflection practices. For example, journaling, mindfulness meditation, or attending therapy can help you process challenging emotions and experiences, and develop a deeper sense of self-awareness.
  • Be flexible: Consider ways to make adjustments to your work schedule or responsibilities that allow for greater flexibility and work-life balance. For example, consider reducing your caseload, switching to part-time work, or taking a break from work altogether if needed.

By taking steps to prevent or address compassion fatigue, therapists can promote their well-being and maintain their ability to provide high-quality care to their clients

You are not alone!

Compassion fatigue is a wide-spread issue across the industry world-wide. You can make yourself feel better again and continue to serve clients with the same dedication as you set out to.

You are not broken.

Sources and more reading:

Figley, C. R. (Ed.). (2013). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. Routledge.

Bordini, S. J., & Fann, J. R. (2019). Promoting resilience in the work of professional psychologists. American Psychologist, 74(6), 649–661.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Self-care for psychologists.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2020). Self-care and stress management for mental health professionals.

The Gottman Institute. (2020). Strategies for therapists: How to prevent burnout and find work-life balance.

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