Understanding dysregulated children from a systemic perspective requires an appreciation of the system in which they live and the part each person plays in perpetuating the difficulty. It is easy to include family members, schools and peers but the system also includes us as workers. Just as the dysregulation in the child can easily spread to caregivers and that of caregivers to children so can dysregulation in helpers enter the system and impact all those involved.
The dysregulation therapists are most likely to suffer is compassion fatigue, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion. Common signs include trouble sleeping, amplified or exaggerated physical reflex, increased emotional reactivity (i.e., irritability, anxiety), hypervigilance and diminished interest in regular activities. It stems from secondary exposure to trauma or suffering presented by clients. The practitioner may become negative towards work, life and others outside the therapeutic relationship, including their own family. They may depersonalize their clients, developing a disparaging attitude towards them and viewing them as less than human, resulting in reduced quality of service and loss of respect.
It is not difficult to imagine the impact of this on an already dysregulated child and family system. Advice by authors Negash,S. and Sahin,S (2011) that practitioners should ‘monitor their sleep patterns, physical and emotional reactivity, and physical activities’ should be heeded by us all to ensure we do not add additional fuel to an already combustible system.
Negash,S. and Sahin,S. Compassion Fatigue in Marriage and Family Therapy: Implications for Therapists and Clients January (2011) Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Vol. 37, No. 1, 1–13
Upcoming workshop – Emotional Dysregulation
“A neuro-political approach to therapy with emotionally & behaviourally dysregulated children, adolescents & families”
A one-day workshop, combining clinical expertise, knowledge and training within the Bower Place Complex Needs Clinic. An opportunity to explore research drawing on live clinical practice.
15th March 2019 – 9.30am to 5pm.
Cost $190 for full day training with Senior Practitioners in the field and Bower Place Directors Catherine Sanders and Malcolm Robinson