The experiences of compassion and self-compassion among psychologists
A large number of psychologists are faced with the task of caregiving and the provision of compassion towards the lived experiences of their clients. While psychologists often experience a sense of satisfaction from their work as caregivers, many also face potential compassion fatigue as a result. As such, psychologists’ experiences with self-compassion (SC) are equally important in that it serves to help them manage their well-being and engagement during therapeutic processes more effectively. This is especially true in the South African context where exposure to trauma is a common occurrence and often places a high burden of care on psychology professionals working in this context. The aim of this study was to explore and describe the experiences of compassion and SC among psychologists in the South African context. A qualitative multiple case study approach was used to elicit rich descriptions from participants regarding their experiences of compassion and SC. Six participants were recruited through purposeful sampling. Data were collected through two semi-structured interviews with each participant. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed by means of thematic analysis. Six themes emerged from the data analysis: 1) Psychologists’ Values are the Starting Point for Compassion and SC; 2) Relationships Nurture Compassion and SC; 3) Compassion and SC Develop Dynamically within a Therapist; 4) Compassion and SC Require Awareness of Self and Others; 5) Compassion and SC Add Value to Psychologists; and 6) Compassion and SC Entail a Process of Energy. The findings of the study suggest that compassion and SC fulfil an important function in the lives of psychologists and the therapeutic processes they form part of. As such, the insights gained from this research may have important implications for psychologists and how they practice their profession in the South African context.