Book Review: Help for the Helper
Rothschild, B. (2006). Help for the helper. The psychophysiology of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. New York. W. W. Norton & Company.
Burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are risks that, as therapist we are aware of however whilst many of us have a toolbox full of techniques to assist our clients, we often fall short in caring for ourselves. One of the most important tools in our arsenal is ourselves — the therapist as a person — and if we don’t take care of ourselves then the therapeutic alliance will not work. This is where a book such as Help the Helper by Babette Rothschild becomes such an invaluable resource.
Rothschild begins her book by promoting the use of common sense. Something that she believes is lacking in therapist training and professional development. And perhaps she is right. While therapists are taught many theories of human development and therapeutic technique, we should also be taught to trust in ourselves, our intuition and practice common sense. Rothschild looks at how we develop empathy with our clients and how these ‘ties that bind’ if left unchecked can quickly contribute to the aforementioned risks of burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
Help for the Helper offers self care strategies ranging from the simple to the complex. The book is well set out with a mix of case vignettes and easy to follow exercises.? In each chapter she effortlessly melds psychological theory with common sense tactics for therapist skill building. Help for the Helper is aimed at working professionals however it would be a valuable addition and supporting text for those undertaking therapist training.
Reviewed by Ms Anda Davies BSSc MA Lecturer AIPC