In 2017 we recognized a gap in the support services for our staff and other professional animal care workers and have spearheaded a support group –Professionals in Animal Care (PACT)– for animal care workers to share stories, find support and explore the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that stem from working with traumatic and/or distressing animal care cases. The support group is intended to empower animal care professionals who are struggling with exposure to traumatic experiences that are encountered in their everyday work with animals.
Compassionate work is difficult and presents emotional challenges that arise from being exposed day after day to trauma and suffering. It is common for animal care workers to experience compassion fatigue (emotional burnout that results from continual exposure to emotional stress that can lead to depression, insomnia, exhaustion and anger), secondary trauma (emotional distress from hearing about the firsthand trauma of another, which can lead to PTSD-like symptoms), and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (a trauma and stressor-related disorder that manifests in symptoms such as hyperarousal, flashbacks, nightmares, depression and prolonged distress). The volume of patients seen in the field of animal care often greatly exceeds that of human caring fields; our hospital sees 2200+ patients annually. The deep empathy and compassion that animal care workers exhibit is a double-edged sword; it allows us to connect with our patients and care for them, but it also can lead to a significant amount of distress, especially when seeing animals that are maimed or tortured through deliberate human cruelty. This can result in feelings of hopelessness, overwhelming sadness and powerlessness. There is empirical support for the benefits of support groups in reducing emotional distress. Please note that this is NOT group therapy and is not intended to be a substitute for individual or group therapy.
The support group is being facilitated by a clinical psychologist (Dr. Megan McElheran) and hosted by Andrea Hunt, our Executive Director. Dr. McElheran is a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and PTSD. Andrea Hunt, in addition to being our Executive Director, is a graduate student in the Masters of Counseling program at the University of Calgary. The role of the facilitator and host is to facilitate discussions and to manage the dynamics of the group, not to provide psychotherapy.
PAC meets on the 2nd Tuesday of every month from 6:30 – 8 pm in a central location
If you are an animal care professional and would like to be emailed information about upcoming meetings please fill out the form below. Your information will be kept confidential.