“ Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”--Confucius
Each week, I listen to what people say—with my clients, and in my everyday life. I listen to myself too. We tend to do that as therapists! This week, a theme kept coming up with my colleagues about burn out. I thought this would be an excellent topic to write about, both for the benefit of fellow therapists, and for our clients.
When I was a personal trainer, it seemed as though everyone in the gym thought that we were all physically perfect. No matter what profession you’re in, there’s not one person that we can put in the middle of a room, look at, and say, “That person is perfect.” It’s the same with therapists. We are not perfect. We make mistakes, have life problems, and have to find our own ways to move through them.
At one of the universities I attended, a psychologist did not get the therapy they very much could have benefited from, started acting in an unethical way, and was stripped of that license to practice therapy that we all work so hard for. When it was suggested that this person get their own therapy, the response was, “Who am I going to see? I’m a psychologist.” Knowing when you need to seek out help is crucial to your well being—and your career.
As I listened to my fellow therapist’s stories and journeys, I heard why one left a long-standing private practice after more than a decade. I heard others, just starting out in private practice, already feeling exhaustion from trying to figure out how to think like both an entrepreneur, and a therapist. Others were having trouble emotionally holding onto the role a therapist needs in order to best serve our clients, and still others feeling the, “imposter syndrome”. Did they really know how to therapeutically treat their clients?
I feel, as therapists, it is extremely important to seek out our own help at the first hint of burn out before we fizzle out. We know the questions. We ask the questions. There are a lot of things you can question to identify what might be going on for you, and what direction you may need may to go in. At a time of struggle or strife, as we know, it can be harder to see things with clarity.
We are always becoming. I found my first mentor in the field during an undergraduate field work position. We only know the theories behind the practice at this point. I was amazed, sitting in group sessions, how she immediately knew how to respond, or what to say to client’s comments and concerns. I would sit with her after every group, and ask her about this. She said that the thing about our field is that we are always growing and learning. Once licensed, we are required to get our CEU’s. We have tons of books we’ve collected. I know I could use a bigger bookcase! If you are feeling that imposter syndrome, it might be helpful to refresh yourself through our old textbooks, or ask yourself some of the questions below. Also, always remember self compassion. https://www.amyenklingcounseling.com/blog/?offset=1511325240817
Are you in your ideal environment? Some of us work in agencies serving a specific population. Some of us work in hospitals or facilities. Some of us start out working under a licensed therapist in a private or group practice. Some of us do contract work, and others go from home to home serving families. Are you in an environment where you thrive the most? Are you in your best fit?
Through my experiences in the field, I found that my personal answer was that I needed to be autonomous. With this, I could really delve into using my right-brained creativity in serving my clients. I feel my choice affords me to feel that I’m doing my best to both stay connected to, and keep growing, in my field--and write blogs like this. It became fun again! I felt like I did when I first decided that I wanted to enter the field to empower people. I had found my purpose, and now my passion was back!
How is your personal life? We know that striving towards balance in our lives is important. It can feel like a constant teeter-totter at times, or a Ferris wheel that makes you dizzy! We also know how important self care is, but are you consistently doing it? I know if I do not get enough sleep, or miss a workout or my favorite yoga class, I feel crappy. It’s also okay to know when you need a day off from self care to self care. Sometimes that means zoning out on the sofa watching the, “boob tube”. How are your personal relationships? Is there anything or anyone toxic that you could benefit from letting go of? Are there friends you wish you could see more of, and want to reach out to? What might be getting in your way, or needs to be out of your way?
Are you keeping that, “therapeutic distance”? Therapy is quite personal, yet it’s not to be taken personal. Just as thinking like an entrepreneur when trained to be a therapist, being able to keep that therapeutic stance in order to best serve our clients will only assist us with combating burnout. Empathic people can have a difficult time with this. You may need to find reminders that, while our caring can certainly serve our clients, we need to serve ourselves first in order to be there for them.
Are you taking on too much? Everyone has their own meter that says when they are, “full”. I know some therapists that can see ten clients a day. For others, it seems five a day is a comfortable number for them. Some need a good break in between clients. Do you know your limit?
Do you need support? This week, myself and three other therapists started a support group on how to build our ideal private practices. This is something I’ve wanted to find since I went out on my own private practice venture. Being autonomous in private practice can feel lonely for some. Not only does joining some type of support group give you support—whether it’s for personal mental health reasons, or building an ideal practice--but it also is a way to better serve our community by collaborating with others to gain different viewpoints and perspectives to be at our personal best. Our clients are our community. To look at the bigger picture of being able to have everyone working at their best capacity can only better serve the community as a whole. Although we’ve made it through our graduate programs, our hours of supervised experience before we were licensed, and took our own paths in the field, it does not mean we still do not need the support of our peers. Collaboration is never a bad idea in any profession.
If you are struggling, I hope these questions and maybe simple, yet important, reminders sparked something, or were helpful for you. Please feel free to share with others if you sense they may be feeling burnt out or stressed. Also, please feel free to reach out to me. If we have a community of support, we can only better serve our community of healthy clients.
1. We are always becoming.
2. Are you in your ideal environment?
3. How is your personal life?
4. Are you keeping that, "therapeutic distance"?
5. Are you taking on too much?
6. Do you need support?