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  • Andrew Robinson

Restorative Practice and Self Care

In the demanding field of helping professions, especially among those working with children and families, the risk of emotional fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout is significant. Helpers and practitioners carry the weight of their clients' experiences, often absorbing the emotional and psychological stress that accompanies the complexities of familial and childhood adversities. This makes self-care not just beneficial, but essential for sustainability and effectiveness in their roles. Incorporating restorative practices into self-care routines offers a promising approach to mitigate these risks, drawing upon both the principles of trauma-informed care and the burgeoning evidence supporting restorative practices.

Restorative practices, at their core, emphasize the importance of building positive relationships, fostering mutual empathy, and repairing harm within communities. When applied to self-care, these principles encourage individuals to cultivate a supportive network, engage in reflective practice, and seek balanced restoration from the vicarious trauma experienced in their professional lives.

A key element in adopting restorative self-care practices is the establishment of a strong, empathetic support network. Research highlights the protective role of social support in mitigating the effects of job stress and burnout among social workers and therapists (Bride, Radey, & Figley, 2007). Engaging in regular, structured debriefings with peers or supervisors can serve as a restorative practice, offering a space for practitioners to process their experiences, share coping strategies, and reinforce a collective sense of purpose and resilience.

Mindfulness and reflective practice are also central to a restorative approach to self-care. The act of reflection not only aids in processing emotional experiences but also aligns with the trauma-informed principle of self-regulation. A study by Goodman and Schorling (2012) demonstrated that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques could significantly decrease burnout rates among primary care physicians, suggesting that these practices can be beneficial across various helping professions. By fostering a habit of mindful reflection, helpers can maintain their emotional equilibrium, enhancing their capacity to respond empathetically to those they serve without being overwhelmed.

Integrating trauma-informed principles into self-care routines involves recognizing the signs of vicarious trauma and implementing strategies to address its impact. This includes acknowledging one's limits, setting professional boundaries, and practicing self-compassion. Stamm's (2010) work on the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) offers valuable insights into monitoring the balance between positive and negative effects of caregiving, guiding practitioners in identifying when their well-being may be at risk.

Finally, engaging in regular, restorative activities outside of work—such as physical exercise, creative hobbies, or nature walks—can replenish mental and emotional reserves. Neff and Germer (2013) discuss the benefits of self-compassion in reducing burnout and promoting well-being among therapists, emphasizing the importance of nurturing oneself just as one would care for others.

In conclusion, integrating restorative practices into self-care routines offers a holistic approach for helpers and practitioners working with children and families to manage stress, prevent vicarious trauma, and avoid burnout. By fostering supportive relationships, engaging in reflective and mindfulness practices, adopting trauma-informed strategies, and nurturing oneself through restorative activities, professionals can sustain their well-being and continue to make a positive impact in the lives of those they serve.

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