|Abstract or Summary
- The purpose of this dissertation study was to increase understanding of licensed mental health professionals' experiences as they have encountered and navigated through compassion fatigue (CF). CF is a complex construct with an attendant constellation of secondary stress responses. In order to examine the complex and varying factors associated with experiencing CF, the research was conducted using a grounded theory, qualitative approach and methodology. Nine licensed mental health professionals across the disciplines of marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, professional counseling, psychology, and social work were individually interviewed three times, for a total of at least 180 minutes. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed. As a result of the analyses, four main categories emerged, experiencing internal dissonance, recognizing and processing the effects, becoming intentional, and creating ongoing changes. Becoming intentional is the central category because of its central and pivotal relationship to the whole process of participants' experience of encountering and navigating through CF. This fulcrum punctuates participants' experiences leading up to becoming intentional and those which came after as delineated in the other three categories of the theory. Prior to becoming intentional, participants experienced internal dissonance, which escalated to distress or crisis. When this distress or crisis reached a point where it became untenable, participants recognized and processed the effects. One of the effects which participants came to recognize was a loss of internal locus of control. Becoming intentional served as a catalyst for participants to take action and recapture their locus of control. The process of becoming intentional is reflected in three practices, transforming perceptions, developing support, and making professional changes. These findings are applicable to a variety of models of counseling, supervision, counselor education, and clinical practice in either a single or interdisciplinary setting.