Author Archives: Michael Sorsdahl

Making the Transition: Career Transition Resources for Canadian Armed Forces Members

Posted by: Michael Sorsdahl on March 21, 2017 10:35 am

The challenges of transitioning from being an active serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces to the civilian workforce are unique. Military members spend months training to enter into the military workforce, moving through training institutions and learning how to work as part of a highly functional team. When these military members either reach retirement, decide to retire early, or even get released for medical or other reasons, they are then placed into the precarious position of re-creating their identity and finding their way in the civilian world. Even beyond the need for support for transitioning into the civilian workforce, military members also have unique roadblocks to that transition that may include trauma, identity, and family issues.

There are some great resources that have been created to help aspects of this transition, and it is important to know the resources that are out there that can be used to help this population who have given their lives to protect all of ours. Some of the resources that are available for this population are:

Canada Career Counselling – is a national psychology practice that provides both an in-person and on-line career exploration and transition service designed to transform and translate military career experience into recognizable civilian transferable skills. This organization includes direct connection with highly experienced Master’s and PhD level Registered Psychologists, with extensive backgrounds in career development and the specific roadblocks unique to military members.

Canada Company – which is a charitable organization that is designed to help military members find resources available to them during their transition processes. There are some on-line resources available through this organization that provide assistance in resume writing and job search assistance.

Helmets to Hardhats – is a not-for-profit organization that provides apprenticeship training connections for members currently serving or those who have served to move into the trades from the military.

Michael Sordahl

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Helping Counsellors Working in Trauma

Posted by: Michael Sorsdahl on April 5, 2016 12:46 pm

As a working psychotherapist in the area of trauma, it has become very evident that the importance of the development of self-care strategies and receiving supervision to aid in helping ourselves to help our clients is paramount.  It has struck me that many practitioners enter into the field without understanding the pitfalls and signs of Vicarious Trauma, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout. If we as practitioners of wellness are unable to maintain our own wellness, then we can actually do more harm than good in our attempts to help..

My experience as both a practitioner and an instructor to counselling psychology students in the area of crisis and trauma has led me to realize the lack of awareness that may exist in our professional community. Some of the symptoms of vicarious trauma as outlined by Iqbal (2015) that may be experienced by thBurnouterapists could be:

  • Changes in personal identity and world view
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Becoming easily emotionally overwhelmed
  • Numbing of atypical feelings towards people and events
  • Loss of connectedness to others and the self
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulty connecting with joy.

Some ways for practitioners in the field to be able to assess for their levels of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout are with the Traumatic Stress Institute Belief Scale (TSI-BSL), Compassion Fatigue Self-Test for Psychotherapists (CFST), the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQoL), and the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Sansbury, Graves, & Scott, 2015).

Proactive self-interventions against the onset of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout are through the implementation of self-care strategies and supervision. Self-care strategies can be implemented in 4 realms of practitioner’s lives, including the physical, mental/emotional, social, and physical environment. Examples could be exercise and nutrition (Physical), meditation and mindfulness (mental/emotional), time spent with family and friends (family), and a clean orderly house (physical environment). I recommend implementing 1-2 strategies from each of these four areas to give a well-rounded self-care approach.

Directly discussing vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout with a supervisor is one of the best ways to work through the symptoms early on and process any concerns you may have. Supervision is not just for students, I highly recommend it for all active practitioners in our field.


Iqbal, A. (2015). The ethical considerations of counselling psychologists working with trauma: Is there a risk of vicarious traumatisation? Counselling Psychology Review, 30 (1), 44-51.

Merriman, J. (2015). Enhancing counsellor supervision through compassion fatigue education. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93, 370-378.

Sansbury, B. S., Graves, K., & Scott, W. (2015). Managing traumatic stress responses among clinicians: Individual and organizational tools for self-care. Trauma, 17, (2), 114-122.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA