Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders

Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders

Roles, Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders: Christie Jenkins

Roles, Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders: Christie Jenkins Program Transcript


DR. CHRISTIE JENKINS: Hello, everyone. I’m Dr. Christie Jenkins. I’m a core faculty member in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program here at Walden University. One of the questions that I get a lot is how did you get started in crisis work? And I had answered an ad in the paper about 23 years ago that said, “How would you like to work in an underground safe house for domestic violence victims and their family?” And I thought, wow, that sounds fascinating. And I did not realize that I would really find my passion during that time period.

And as I worked there, I was a life skills trainer, a child advocate. I worked in the court system with survivors and their families. And I thought, I really want to help treat them, not just do case management type of work. I really want to change their lives. And so I went back to school and got a master’s degree in community counseling and started treating the survivors and their families from a clinical perspective. So after I did that for a while, I thought, well, if I’m really going to make an impact on the world, I truly need to go back to school, get a PhD, and train other counselors on how to treat survivors and their family.

So throughout this work, there have been a lot of different stories, different case studies, lots of ways that you can treat a victim, make them a survivor, and then turn them into a thriver. A good example of that is I had a lady once who was in her 70s, a tiny African-American lady who was suffering from cancer. And her husband beat her up because he was upset that the woman that he was cheating on her with was not at home. So he came home and beat up his wife. He broke her eye socket. He broke her clavicle. And here is a woman who is literally dying from cancer.

And so she came in to see us in the court system. And we were able to get her into a shelter, get her safety plan, get her an attorney, all the things that she needed in order to get out. And so when we think about crisis work, our crisis in that situation was that we needed her to be safe. But when we think about the long-term situation of it, she also needed to process so much about what was going on in her life with her relationship, with her marriage ending, with her dying, the cancer. There was just so much– the court process. So that’s what the difference is between a crisis response and then that long-term counseling piece.

When I think about all of these different pieces, I cannot help but think about vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, burnout. That is really, really huge in crisis work, because we get into counseling because we’re so empathic and we have those core conditions of counseling, those Rogers qualities. And so we’re

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Roles, Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders: Christie Jenkins

genuine, and we just want to help our clients, and that really sets us up in a very interesting way for burnout. So we have to be careful about that.

I want you to think about three Rs. You need to be able to recognize it. You need to be able to reverse it. And you need to be resilient. So when we think about recognizing burnout, I know for me personally, when I start to feel real tight up here in my shoulders, then I know it’s time that I need to take a little time out. I need to think about myself. I need to do some self-care. For someone else, it might be that they’re a little short with people or that they start not doing their work so well or kind of shirking their responsibilities.

So what we need to do, really, is reverse some of that. So what are we doing to take care of ourselves? So is it a bike ride? Is it a run? Is it simply sitting down and Netflix and chilling? ‘Cause those are fun days, too, to just kind of binge watch something that’s fun for us, to kind of have a little bit of time out. And that resilience comes from recognizing it and taking care of ourselves and really having those mechanisms in place.

So when I think about self-care, I think that a lot of people think, oh, I’m going to get a massage. I’m going to get a pedicure. I’m going to go buy that expensive purse. And it doesn’t always have to be that big. So for me, I like different things. Like for instance, behind me, you can see that there’s a big, giant tapestry. I like to see pretty things. In my office, I like to use plugins that smell like apple and cinnamon, because it smells like somebody’s baking. So I have the smells. I have the sights. So incorporating little things– or going outside and sitting in the sun for five or 10 minutes and just feeling that warmth. So self-care doesn’t have to be this incredibly overwhelming experience. It’s what’s important to you.

And when I think about legal and ethical issues– I do a lot of work at the Children’s Advocacy Center. The Children’s Advocacy Center came about because they were finding that children were being interviewed between eight and nine times on a sexual abuse allegation. And so what would happen is a child would make an outcry at the school. The teacher would get the counselor. The counselor would get the nurse. The nurse would get the principal. Then they’d call law enforcement and then children services, and then maybe they’d come see us.

So they really wanted a one-stop shop for folks to come to and really just only have to tell their story one time. And so with that comes a lot of responsibility here. And so we do trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy at the Children’s Advocacy Center. And what happens in that is it’s very prescribed, and we have about 12 sessions with a child. And so at the end of the 12 sessions, they write a trauma narrative. And the trauma narrative is either the first time, the last time, or the worst time. So it’s not the entire story about the sexual abuse, because that in and of itself would be completely overwhelming. So they pick a something that they want to talk about.

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Roles, Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders: Christie Jenkins

Now with this, a big important piece of it is to share that with their non-offending caregiver, because research shows that the greatest indicator of how well a child will do after being sexually abused is the parental response from the abuse. And one thing that I think about when I think about serious ethical considerations with the crisis work that I do is that if that non-offending caregiver is not supportive, it’s counter-intuitive for me, ethically, to bring her in, him in, them in, to this child’s session and have this child read this.

Because if the parents are going to be upset, if they’re not going to believe them, if they’re going to get angry, or if they’re going to ruminate on it, that is counter- intuitive to what we’re doing here. Because, really, that’s the end piece, and that’s the piece where they say, I’m taking back my power, and I have this, and I can deal with this, and I’m coping with this. So in that regard, I think that it’s a huge ethical piece for me to really figure out if that parent, non-offending caregiver, foster parent, whoever that may be, should be in that room while they read that. And that’s something that you discuss with your client, because you want them to have a voice in it.


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Roles, Responsibilities and Self-Care of Crisis Responders: Christie Jenkins

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