As therapists, we spend a good amount of our time helping other people care for themselves. We recommend healing activities like yoga, meditation, and journaling, knowing how beneficial these disciplines can be. Yet, when it comes to ourselves, how many of us follow our own advice?
According to Kramen & Kahn, who developed a self-care assessment tool in 2002, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:
- appear competent and professional?
- appear warm, caring, and accepting?
- regularly seek case consultation with another professional while protecting confidentiality.
- at the end of a stressful day, frequently utilize self-talk to put aside thoughts of clients?
- maintain a balance between work, family and play?
- nurture a strong support network of family and friends?
- use healthy leisure activities as a way of helping yourself relax from work? If work is your whole world, watch out! You do not have a balanced life.
- often feel renewed and energized by working with clients?
- develop new interests in your professional work?
- perceive clients’ problems as interesting and look forward to working with clients?
- maintain objectivity regarding clients’ problems?
- maintain good boundaries with clients, allowing them to take full responsibility for their actions while providing support for change?
- use personal psychotherapy as a means of maintaining and/or improving your functioning as a psychotherapist?
- maintain a sense of humor? You can laugh with your clients.
- act in accordance with legal and ethical standards?
If answering these questions helps you recognize the need for more self-care, you are not alone! The truth is that many healers have a difficult time focusing on themselves. Even Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, who suffered from frequent blackouts, mild agoraphobia, cancer of the jaw, (due to smoking, which he refused to quit), neuroses, and a serious addiction to cocaine, failed to help himself.
Yet, even if it may be in our therapeutic DNA to ignore our own needs, it remains imperative that we don’t! Not only will focusing on our own self-care help us, but it will help our clients as well. We can’t expect to be effective as therapists, if we are not starting from a solid healthy foundation. Plus, it’s in our code of ethics to keep our minds strong and our bodies able.
While there are loads of lists detailing wonderful ways to care for yourself, we thought we’d offer you some therapist specific suggestions:
Balance Your Caseload
Certain diagnoses, like Borderline Personality Disorder, for example, require far more time and energy than others. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 2 or 3 personality disordered individuals in your caseload at one time (unless, that is your specialty, to which we say: We admire your strength!).
Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Clients
Unless it is a true emergency, you don’t need to be in contact with your clients at all hours of the day and night. Set healthy boundaries by explaining to your clients that they may leave you a message, and you will get back with them during the next business day. Also, no matter how cool they may be, your clients are not your friends! Keep your relationship professional and you will avoid all kinds of future problems.
Connect With Colleagues
Whether you set up a regular peer supervision group, or, simply keep in touch with other mental-health professionals, these relationships are paramount to keeping you sane and balanced.
Here at Therapy Hive, we believe in promoting therapists’ self-care. Not sure where to start? Come work it out on the mat with us on March 23rd, from 2-3:30 pm at The Mat Yoga Studio. You can earn CE credits while balancing your chakras!