EMPLOYEE SELF-CARE PROGRAM

Establishing and following a well-rounded program of self-care is mandatory at Above and Beyond. In addition to insisting on it’s good design we devote a group hour every week to test the accountability of every employee’s follow through. We compare the importance of this effective self-care routine to putting on an oxygen mask when an airplane cabin loses pressure. "Put your own mask on first before assisting others," the flight attendant warns us during the safety talk before departure. While it may seem selfish and counterintuitive for us to help ourselves before assisting others in an emergency, there is a simple truth contained in the order to don our own mask first:

We cannot help others to the best of our ability if we are stuck fighting for oxygen.

The same can be said of self-care. If we are not our best self, how can we provide the best support to those around us? At Above and Beyond we do not believe we can. We deem it essential not only to routinely monitor our own well-being for the obvious benefits that come of it, but one of the primary reasons to make sure it is well maintained is so that when an unexpected crisis occurs, as happens often in our industry, we can take care of ourselves and others when our help is really needed.

The Self-Care Program at Above and Beyond is considered an immunization against the toxic effects of compassion fatigue, also known as vicarious trauma, second-hand shock, secondary stress reaction, and burnout, all of which are different ways of describing a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatized or under significant emotional duress, but find themselves unable to do so. One unfortunate outcome of unrecognized and, therefore, untreated compassion fatigue is an unacceptably high turnover rate in the substance abuse treatment field, which has been pegged by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health to be as high as 50% annually for both clinical supervisors and counselors. This high turnover rate results in deeply harmful termination or abandonment of those with substance use disorders by the professionals that they counted on to help them heal and reconnect.

We consider this to be completely unacceptable and have taken dramatic steps to combat this condition so that we might not unwittingly contribute to those problems that we seek to absolve.

Above and Beyond is a "Vicarious Informed Trauma Organization" that follows the guidelines and suggestions of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) of which it is a member and participant.

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