Israeli Clinical Psychologist Presents Innovative Approaches of Compassion-Focused Support of Caregivers at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention

by SELAH Israeli Crisis Management Center, October 2011

Washington, D.C

The American Psychological Association (APA) hosted its 119th Annual Convention, August 4th-7th in Washington, D.C. Israeli Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Eleanor Pardess presented a new approach that focuses on cultivating compassionate caregiving and preventing compassion fatigue. This integrative model, developed with San Francisco based Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Ilene Serlin, past president of the Division of Humanistic Psychology, was based on research conducted in cooperation with SELAH (Israel Crisis Management Center), Israel's premier support organization for victims of trauma within Israel's immigrant community. The program was introduced by Dr. Kathryn Norsworthy, Chairperson of the International section of the Trauma Division and the discussant was Dr. Charles Figley.

The APA is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States, working to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives. With over 154,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide.

The program creates space for "care"-full conversations. Compassion-focused practices for volunteers and professional staff are employed to enhance emotional regulation, hope and meaning. The study's findings demonstrate the significant value to the care professional, of volunteering outside of their everyday work environment, while utilizing their professional skills and training. The study highlights the possibilities of growth through coping with the stresses of caregivers and the importance of the caregiver's being part of a caring community.

Pardess and Serlin presented to the A.P.A Conference the M.O.V.I.N.G. model for promoting compassion satisfaction for caregivers (Meaning, Opportunities, Validation, Involvement, Nature Group). The model was developed following a 3-year research study on SELAH volunteers, social workers and other professionals who provide emergency as well as long term support in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and other crisis situations, such as traffic or work accident, sudden serious illness and domestic violence.

Specific components of the model include: nature-based activities, movement, dance and body-mind practices combined with expressive artwork, harnessing the power of metaphors of transformation and regeneration in nature. In addition, the model encompasses narrative practices such as linking stories of meaningful encounters, and compassion-focused exercises.

Founded in 1993, SELAH is Israel's only countrywide volunteer network providing assistance and support for new immigrants hit by sudden crisis, terror or tragedy. A safety net for newcomers without the support system of family and friends, SELAH, has helped over 22,000 distressed immigrants through its emergency and long-term assistance programs. The study has implications for the selection, training and support of the volunteers who reach out to support the traumatized. The training uses a multi-model of whole person approach, that draws from mind-body and nature practices. "By nurturing a growth mindset, hope and meaning, caregivers are able to cope better with stress, and balance between caring for themselves and caring for others" said Dr. Pardess.

The study is highly relevant to both the Trauma and Humanistic divisions at the conference, highlighting the possibilities of collaboration in trauma care, between Israel and the United States. Ruth Bar-On, Executive Director of SELAH, "At SELAH we deal daily with victims and survivors of trauma and tragedy, helping them rebuild their lives, offering care and support. Caring for the carers is no less important as an organizational responsibility. We are very proud to share our experience and have programs used to help caregivers across the globe."