BURNOUT is one of the most common challenges Therapists share about in Therapist Toolbox – Support & Resources for Therapists group on Facebook
It’s easy to see why! Therapist are far too often overworked, underpaid, and exposed to secondary trauma on a regular basis.
Therapist are far too often overworked, underpaid, and exposed to secondary trauma on a regular basis.
I asked members of Therapist Toolbox what self care challenges they’ve experienced–and what their strategy is for overcoming those challenges.
Here’s what therapists had to say:
Dr. Misha Kleronomos, PsyD, LPC
Oregon Integrated Psychotherapy
View on Psychology Today
I’m in private practice in Salem Oregon. I have run the gamut in specialties: from kids with behavioral disorders and mental illness early in my career, to contract work doing in home therapy for DHS, to running a pain clinic with my husband (a doctor) for adults with chronic pain and health conditions, to my current very eclectic private practice.
My self care challenges over the years have morphed somewhat over time and depending on the job and population, but because both my parents were therapists growing up, I knew to make it a priority as part of the job. The biggest challenge I faced in my career was when I was working with abused kids and their parents-who were attempting to get them back from foster care.
because both my parents were therapists growing up, I knew to make it a priority as part of the job
Early on I was able to have a mantra of “they are only doing as well as the tools they were given” to give me empathy and understanding for the parents. This became more difficult when I became heavily pregnant with my first child. I had to do much more self care, self talk, work with my mentor, and venting to colleagues about my frustrations and waning empathy than I did before or anytime after that period.
Since then I have been a very good self care manager. In fact, after 20 years in practice, I have a giant list of ways I use to take care of myself. I no longer think of it as self care as much as a lifestyle to support all levels of health and wellness.
I no longer think of it as self care as much as a lifestyle to support all levels of health and wellness.
Here they are: Most important to this job-I am very mindful-staying in the present with my patients, but letting them all go when I walk through my front door at home and being fully present there. Sometimes this means pounding loud music all the way home! I make exercise as much a non negotiable in my life as eating or sleeping. I take regular vacations to places very different from my daily existence.
I just got back from Thailand with my husband and teenage boys, and we all will be going to Cairo an Athens in November. In relation to this, my husband and I use medical conferences where one of us is speaking for in training as a couple’s getaway, usually extending our stay wherever we are for a couple of days alone together. I spend time with my friends and alone with my husband weekly. I have 3 people I trust who work in the field I can call at any time if I need to consult or just vent.
When things occur in my own life, I go to my own counselor. My family has sit down dinner together every single weeknight. I make my nutrition a priority. I schedule at least one break in my day-that I use for exercise, lunch, walking the dog, or picking up my son from school-not for catching up on paperwork! I take Fridays “off” for paperwork and admin days and to spend the afternoon with my kids. I take Saturday and Sunday truly off for family time, friend time, or alone time. And speaking of the dog-I take my dog, a giant 140 pound St. Berdoodle, to work with me. He makes even the worst day better, for me and the patients.
Meredith Futernick, LMHC, LPC, ERYT-200
My name is Meredith Futernick and I am a therapist, yoga coach, and the founder at LGBTQCouplesTherapy.com.
I have built a practice that is completely remote. Doing this gives me the freedom to teach all of the things I am passionate about. I am grateful to be able to work with LGBTQ+ clients who live in parts of the country where it may not be safe to be “out” and give many more people access to services that may not have them otherwise.
Building an online private practice has meant spending A LOT of time behind a screen. Sessions, creating content, making phone calls. Sometimes I reflect on my day and realize that I have not put the phone down once. Also, having an online practice can feel pretty isolating. I have to make a conscious effort to connect with other people, both online and in person.
having an online practice can feel pretty isolating.
Self-care has to be a priority. If I don’t take care of myself, I am no good to anyone else. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is meditate for at least 20 minutes. I don’t say “there’s no time” because I wake up as early as I have to to make it happen. I build my schedule around my self-care. There’s some classes that I love, so I don’t book sessions during that time. Spending time with family? I don’t book sessions during that time.
Self-care has to be a priority
Dr. Heather Chamberlain, PsyD
I specialize in working with young children and families who have experienced trauma. My therapy sessions can be very intense with themes of abuse, death, and medical trauma. It can be heartbreaking to watch families go through these experiences so I prioritize self care in a number of ways.
For example, I always arrive to my office 30 minutes early so I can prepare for the day. It ensures that I am not rushing and anxious before going into an important session. I try to get outside at least once a day and often eat lunch while looking at nature. I focus on breathing deeply in session and outside of it and when I can meditate for even 5 minutes, I notice a difference in my body. While big swaths of time are great too, I find the little moments help me stay regulated throughout the day.
Are you a therapist?
If you are a therapist who would benefit from support and resources for your personal and professional life, I invite you to join us in the Therapist Toolbox group on Facebook.
You can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mftoolbox/