Self-care. It’s a term that has been tossed around a lot in the 13 years I’ve been working in the DV movement, and I’m sure for the decades previous as well. We’ve talked about it with the survivors we worked with, and we’ve encouraged each other to practice it. But what does it mean? When we talk about self-care today, we have moved beyond the idea that chocolate and bubble baths will rejuvenate us. In this line of work strong and brave advocates take in traumatic story after story. Those leading our organizations make one tough decision after another about funding (or lack thereof) and program structure—decisions that can be hard news to deliver to those strong and brave advocates and staff. We must continue the dialogue about self-care. Incorporating real and helpful support for staff (and those of you in leadership too!) sustains good jobs and strong organizations.
Recently, Sarah Foley from the YWCA in Spokane wrote a guest post here about a supervision survey she conducted with advocates and supervisors from DV organizations around Washington State. She asked a few questions about self-care. When advocates were asked if they engaged in self-care or had a self-care plan, most (87%) said yes. All participating supervisors reported that it was important to support advocates’ self-care. Most (89%) reported that it is ‘very important’ and the other 11% reported it was ‘somewhat important’ to support advocates’ self-care and sustainability in the work.
Advocate and Supervisor Perception of Supervisor’s Support of Self-Care
Advocate and Supervisor Responses on the Frequency of Asking about Self-Care during Supervision
As you can see from the second graph above, there are some discrepancies in how advocates and supervisors perceive how self-care is being addressed. What kinds of things are you doing to address vicarious trauma and promote self-care at your organization? Our sisters at the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs have some suggestions. Are you talking about this in new employee orientation? Have a system for addressing it during regular supervision sessions? Let us know what you’re doing and what you think is working well!
And one last thing…I spoke with a leader at a DV organization recently who, like in the example above, has had to make some tough decisions in the past year. At every level of our organizations, we have great people doing hard work that can sometimes feel thankless. So I want to say Thank You. Here’s a little late Valentine from another nonprofit blogger. I think he puts it beautifully. You are a unicorn!