Psychological well-being in professionals working with migration issues



Helping others is an honorable yet demanding job. It is typically associated with so-called caring professions, in which individuals regularly respond with empathy and compassion to suffering of others, e.g., trauma survivors, terminally ill patients or animals and their caregivers. Providing compassion takes its toll on the professionals who may experience so-called compassion fatigue, when the demand on compassion exceeds the ability to cope physically, psychologically and emotionally with work-related suffering. For instance, they may no longer be able to relax outside of working hours, may feel anxious, powerless and hopeless, and critically, may, for instance, show less empathy toward suffering individuals over time.

However, it seems that working with migration, even outside of caring professions, could potentially lead to lower psychological well-being. Recently, concealing conflicting feelings at work, associated with emotional dissonance, was reported in Migrationsverket’s employees, having a direct contact with migrants who arrived in Sweden after 2014. This suggests that contact with psychological and emotional suffering experienced by migrants may trigger emotional dissonance, and, perhaps compassion fatigue and, in the long run, empathy-induced burnout. This, in turn, puts practitioners, that is, professionals who work with migration, at a higher risk of such issues, and thereby, puts migrants at a higher risk of loneliness and rejection from those who care about them most, resulting in a vicious circle that may forever affect coexistence of migrant and non-migrant groups in the society.

Investigating whether practitioners are at risk compassion fatigue is critical because compassion fatigue is not an inevitable by-product of helping others. It can be alleviated, and even avoided thanks to, e.g., well-developed support network, both at home and at work, debriefing opportunities, and job security. Therefore, the current project involves gathering measures of potential protective factors, such as perceived social network’ and self-compassion on the one hand, and feelings, behaviors and attitudes associated with compassion fatigue on the other. This will allow determining (1) whether field practitioners are at risk of suffering compassion fatigue, (2) which aspects of their life serve as protective factors, (3) whether compassion fatigue affects compassion and empathy toward others. Finally, to determine whether participation in a new peer-to-peer support network for practitioners could, over time, act as a protective factor against compassion fatigue, groups of practitioners inside and outside of such a network, as well as members of other caring professions, are compared in the project.

No sensitive data is collected. The study is entirely anonymous.
Kort titelPsychological well-being in field practitioners
Gällande start-/slutdatum2020/06/30 → …