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‘How can therapists ever experience burnout? They are always so grounded and help others see the truth about themselves.’ Isn’t this the most common perception about therapists? Yet, burnout has long been a recurring concern in the therapist community.
Providing mental health therapy can be emotionally draining for therapists. According to helpguide.org, ‘Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands’. This condition affects most therapists, counsellors, and mental health workers at some point in their careers and may well strike them early on in their careers. It often leads to emotional fatigue and negatively impacts the ability of therapists to be sensitive and empathize with their clients. Several mental health therapists have reported perceiving their clients as energy drains, rather than as humans, due to burnout at work.
Some symptoms of professional burnout include:
· Dreading waking up in the morning.
· Feeling relieved when client appointments are canceled.
· Not reading anything related to psychology.
· Falling asleep during sessions.
· Repeating findings or interpretations multiple times.
· Giving advice instead of truly helping clients learn and grow.
Therefore, it is clear that burnout diminishes the efficiency of therapists.
So, how can therapists avoid burnout before it hits them? Here are some tips.
Remember to give yourself a break and take a deep breath. The key to maintaining balance is to make sustainable life choices. Spend some time in the woods or with family, sleep well, make exercise your daily routine, or follow a spiritual practice regularly. As a mental health professional, you need to take the time out to desegregate your personal and professional selves and do things for yourself.
Stay aware of your personal needs to grow as a person and beyond your career. Don’t hesitate to feed your passion – it could be writing, playing music, painting, or gardening. Dedicate time regularly to do what you love. While it is important to be a good therapist, avoid the tendency to give your work undue importance. Doing so will help you prevent burnout at work.
We’ve highlighted the importance of finding a niche in our blogs before. Highly successful therapists are focused on an area of expertise and are very innovative with identifying and pursuing their focus groups. In the same blog mentioned above, George Anderson – Psychotherapist, Founder & CEO at Anderson Services, spoke at length about providing ancillary services, in addition to traditional therapy, to build your practice. You could get creative there by integrating your passion with work. For example, if you’re into sports, you could coach athletes or trainers. Or if you’re into art, you could provide group therapy for artists or people in creative pursuit.
Burnout becomes inevitable when your mental health caseload is high or when cases are difficult. In such scenarios, seek the consultation of your colleagues, instead of struggling with cases all by yourself. Access to continuous peer support and consultation can help therapists avoid burnout.
Be flexible to adapt yourself and your practice to changing laws,regulations, and guidelines. Avoid adopting rigid ethical risk management practices. Instead, maintain documentation and seek the opinion of your seniors and peers to always stick to the best practices in the industry.
When you become a member of a professional organization, you will receive monthly updates about your industry and have the opportunity to meet other mental health therapists often. This will help foster a sense of community and inform you about the latest legal and ethical trends and developments in your field, which will in turn safeguard you against unwanted stress.
Self-care isn’t just a jargon, it is a critical value that shows that you practice what you preach. Taking care to avoid burnout will only go on to build your credibility as a therapist in your client circles.
Regardless of the measures that you take to be a balanced professional, some jobs might just not be the right fit for you, causing you unnecessary stress. In such scenarios,a good decision might be to move on with your best interests in mind. If you’re in a similar situation, click here to explore interesting teletherapy jobs with benefits.
You might just find the right one!