Therapeutic model‘With the burnout issues teachers face, taking care of themselves through work/life balance is important, but it isn’t enough’ (Neff, 2012).
Parkville College students represent some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the state. Neglect, physical trauma, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol use, psychological trauma, mental illness and cultural trauma, have characterised most of their lives. As a result, there is a substantial risk to our teachers and staff of vicarious and cumulative trauma.
The impact of chaotic and threatening experiences on the developing brain impairs the normal function of the neural system. In turn this compromises a young person’s functional capabilities and social development. ‘Repetitive intervention with trustworthy teachers, through nurturing interactions can be the most effective reparation for maltreated and traumatised children’, (Perry, 2006).
When working with traumatised students, our teachers and staff experience compassion fatigue with a range of physical, psychological, cognitive and spiritual symptoms, including deep exhaustion.
Vicarious trauma is another related risk whereby our staff experience psychological symptoms, such as loss of hope, overidentification with or depersonalisation of clients, after hearing repeated stories of trauma.
Mitigating these dangers is the opportunity to experience compassion satisfaction, where workers can feel immense satisfaction about doing their job well. Many may also feel vicarious resilience, whereby they are able to reframe and cope with their own life challenges as a result of hearing about other’s stories.
Our therapeutic education model
The Parkville College therapeutic education model seeks to apply theoretical models to staff and student development and growth. The Parkville College model draws together ideas from the Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1958), the neurosequential model of therapeutics (Perry, 2006), and person-centred therapy theory (Rogers, 1940).
The effectiveness of this model requires developing and retaining staff that are able to provide consistent, safe and emotionally regulated relationships to our students, which means developing a sustainable team of teachers and staff who are psychologically healthy.
Staff Capacity Program‘Compassion fatigue, also called vicarious traumatisation, is the emotional strain of exposure towering with those suffering the consequences of traumatic events, (Figley, 1995).
The Staff Capacity Team sits within a school wide model and culture, that privileges human relationships for healing and transformation. The Staff Capacity Program attempts to mitigate the risk of vicarious, cumulative and primary trauma, by providing a trauma-informed therapeutic education model that guides our approach with all staff.
Given the nature of our workplace, self-care for our staff is of the utmost importance. The Staff Capacity Program aims to facilitate and celebrate staff growth, reflection and learning. It encompasses reflective group and individual supervision, staff development and critical incident stress management. Parkville College works towards developing and maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing, for teachers and students alike. This is achieved by providing our staff with both regular pre-emptive support and responsive support.
Through fortnightly supervision sessions, Parkville College staff are encouraged to reflect on their recent experiences, personal wellbeing and their ability to self-regulate. Furthermore, there are both one-on-one sessions and group supervision available for all staff to attend. Together with qualified psychologists, teachers are able to develop insights regarding vicarious trauma and compassionate fatigue, and its effects on teaching and our workplace.
Critical incident support
When a critical incident occurs, all staff are given the opportunity to immediately debrief and defuse an acute psychological trauma, with access to confidential one on one counseling service. Assistance is provided for staff to understand and clarify concerning issues, and identify, explore and plan constructive solutions.