When you care enough to do your very best: Genetic counselor experiences of compassion fatigue

Lacey G. Benoit, Patricia Mc Carthy Veach, Bonnie S. LeRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when a caregiver feels overwhelmed by repeated empathic engagement with distressed clients (Figley, 2002). Research demonstrates its existence among nurses, physicians, and mental health professionals, but to date no published study has specifically investigated the nature and prevalence of compassion fatigue among genetic counselors. The present study was an initial attempt to identify and describe the phenomena in genetic counseling by conducting focus group interviews with 12 genetic counselors. Data analysis yielded several themes: a) compassion fatigue occurs and may compromise professional and personal functioning; b) prevalent triggers include delivering bad news and difficult patient issues (e.g., terminal illness, anger, psychopathology); c) effective coping strategies include consulting with colleagues, setting boundaries, and humor; and d) risk factors include personality characteristics and traumatic memories. Training, practice, and research recommendations are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-312
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Burnout
  • Coping
  • Countertransference
  • Empathy
  • Genetic counselor compassion fatigue
  • Self-care
  • Stress


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