March Authors of the Month: Thomas Skovholt and Michelle Trotter-Mathison

Thomas Skovholt and Michelle Trotter-Mathison, authors of The Resilient Practitionerare our Routledge Mental Health Authors of the Month for March! Read our exclusive interview and learn more about her fantastic new edition!

The task is not just avoiding burnout, the task is developing resiliency while engaged in demanding and difficult work, work which directly--one to one--is of great value in reducing human suffering and improving human coping.


Starting with a first edition in 2001, the authors have turned a major task in all the helping and relationship-intense professions on its head. The task is not just avoiding burnout, the task is developing resiliency while engaged in demanding and difficult work, work which directly--one to one--is of great value in reducing human suffering and improving human coping.

The authors’ use of the terms "resilience" and "resiliency" preceded the great upswing in the use of these terms in recent years. This book is based on the best research on practitioner development and mastery, much by the first author and colleagues, yet it is readable, useful and full of tips—just what practitioners seek. The pages sing with passion for the work while filled with warnings for those who care so deeply for the welfare of others.

This popular book, in this third edition, guides students and practitioners toward their own personal balance between caring for themselves and caring for others. This new edition expands on the ‘cost of caring’ in chapter such as Hemorrhaging of the Caring Self: Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma, Ambiguous Endings and Professional Uncertainty. The book then offers strong remedies to the ‘cost of caring’ with a new chapter on models of resiliency, an updated self-care action plan, self-reflection exercises in each chapter, and other valuable additions, but readers will find that the new edition retains its strong grounding, focus on research, and accessible writing style. They’ll also find that the new edition continues its focus on establishing working alliances and charting a hopeful path for practitioners, one that allows them to work intensely with human suffering and also have a vibrant career in the process!

In my professional work, I have combined three sources of influence: active work as a practitioner in counseling, therapy, teaching advising and mentoring; research and theory on practitioner development including my own research; and also insights from my own personal life, including the nuanced perspectives that come from a life lived for decades.

The specific motivation for writing the first edition of this book came from both a love of the work and a realization that initial motivation for helping others can grind one down and do more than that; it can be hurtful and damaging. I saw older professionals go through the meat grinder of the work and that frightened me. I then very actively looked for those ahead of me on the career path doing the hard work of the helping professions while also being buoyant and who, to use simple words, were happy.

The first edition took nine years, while I was fully engaged in the multiple engaging parts of having a family with young children and the demanding and difficult work of one full time and one part-time job. Those were good days. I wanted to never lose the thrill of the helping professions. And I can say now decades later, I have not…hundreds of hours of practice and teaching later, I am still thrilled to enter a new encounter. I have taken my own medicine and it has worked pretty well.

Michelle was my PhD advisee. She wrote her dissertation on mindfulness. She was such a competent and capable student so it was natural for me to ask if she would like to join in writing the second edition. She made important contributions as she has done with this edition. Writing a book is a statement of faith that, through a long process, something of use will emerge. Making it a relay race can help. It was a relief to pass the baton to Michelle and then get it back after a period of rest.

I have a strong belief in people as resilient beings, which influences my counseling work with clients as a psychologist. Working in a busy clinical setting, over and over again I see the importance of caring for the self as a helping professional. We are vital instruments in our work and in order to do this work, our hearts have to continue to be open and we need to continue to stay engaged throughout the life of a career. I am particularly interested in how people in the relationship-intense professions can set up their professional lives in a way that honors their own resilience for the long-term. Partnering with Tom on the second and third editions of this book has allowed me to look more deeply at what research and professional wisdom tell us about how to be resilient practitioners. It is exciting for me to be able to share this information with others in order to start a conversation about the important topic of resilience as a helper.

The core of the helping/caring/relationship-intense professions, and we list 22 of them on the inside cover of the book, is the relationship between the practitioner and the other. When the practitioner suffers from one or more versions of ‘sadness of the soul’ the power of the work for good becomes powerless. We write this book to help stop this destructive process and increase practitioner resiliency.

That careful attention to their own need for personal and professional vitality can provide a protective shield for caring professionals against the hemorrhaging of the caring self and provide for high work satisfaction.

Protecting against forces such as burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma is important. Soaring into vitality is the next step.

That self-care is simple and secondary. In fact, the work is so intense and demanding that self-care is both difficult and primary.

Trying to do good work as therapy and counseling practitioners and instructors, and writing about The Cycle of Caring, while both families embrace the joy of four seasons in Minnesota, including raising children and grandchildren and having simple fun.

The Resilient Practitioner, 3rd Edition

  • The Resilient Practitioner

    Burnout and Compassion Fatigue Prevention and Self-Care Strategies for the Helping Professions, 3rd Edition

    By Thomas M. Skovholt, Michelle Trotter-Mathison

    The Resilient Practitioner, 3rd edition, gives students and practitioners the tools they need to create their own personal balance between caring for themselves and caring for others. This new edition includes a new chapter on resiliency, an updated self-care action plan, self-reflection exercises…

    Paperback – 2016-03-03