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  • Writer's pictureLeona Black

The five phases of compassion fatigue in animal-related occupations

When considering compassion fatigue or burnout in animal related occupations (this can be anything from vets, to researchers, to shelters) Figley and Roop (2006) (both experts on compassion fatigue) wrote their book “Out of love for those who care for animals and those they love because there is a cost of caring”.


I value Figley and Roop’s way of explaining some of the stages that you may go through or experience


They explained that there are five phases of transition when working in animal related occupations:

Phase One: The Dream - developed often in childhood and sustained through education until employment.


Phase Two: The Start — employment, ready to make a difference and make the world a better place for animals, where enthusiasm overflows.


Phase Three: Losing Our Breath — realising the journey is long and arduous, enthusiasm dampens and feelings of anger, frustration and perhaps hopelessness filter in.


Phase Four: Seeking Rhythm — recognising a need to set a steady pace in order to sustain sanity, health and energy. This is the phase that sees employees either take steps to move forward or ‘check out’ and leave the profession.


Phase Five: Finding Rhythm — finding the pace, the niche, the rhythm — a stride that is sustainable and provides a sense of relief.


Of course with many journeys, they are not always linear, but this could be helpful in understanding that what you may be feeling is not unusual and actually quite common.


Before I embarked on the Masters at University of Edinburgh, I felt the first two phases keenly. I was so motivated and ready to make an impact. However I soon realised that the journey was long and couldn’t see how I could make that impact and realise the dream.

I suppose I realised my limits and what I could do to make a difference using the skills I already had, which provides me with compassion satisfaction alongside times of fatigue. So phase five spoke to me – I found my niche and helping those helping animals through coaching for their own wellbeing feels sustainable to me :)


Figley R, Roop G. (2006) Compassion fatigue in the animal-care community. Washington D.C., Humane Society Press.


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