Therapists are human too, and there comes a time in every professional’s career that pushes them over their limit, and breaks their threshold of what they set for themselves. These specialists commit themselves to aiding their clients to reform their lives through mental healing, and with such a heavy responsibility, these practitioners are likely to burn out and find themselves trapped in a cycle of giving but not receiving, specifically for their own personal wellbeing. Their clients depend on them to be better versions of themselves, but who is going to be there for these therapists? Their job is to analyse, render support, and solve their clients’ cases. However, while providing the necessary tools and solutions for others, these therapists in turn phase out their own mental wellbeing as they focus more on someone else’s. As they go about their job of doing their best to try and fix people, they discount and even ignore their own needs during their sessions, as they prioritise their clients because well, that’s their job. This robotic neglect of themselves during the countless long hours of work and commitment slowly piles up, and the dark cloud lingering above eventually begins to rain down on them. They need to build a foundation of self-care and prevent themselves from emotionally collapsing.
Being a therapist is not an easy profession, and I say this because pouring their efforts out for someone else creates a hole in them, and the days go by slowly causing decay and even trauma. Being exposed to others’ mental health situations inevitably rubs off on the therapists themselves, and subconsciously or not, these thoughts of mental mess leaks and lingers in their mind, potentially infecting them as well. Practitioners “work in a culture of one-way caring in which they are required to demonstrate empathy, compassion and patience, without the expectation of receiving such care in return from their clients” This statement is a fact and is the root of the issue at hand.
Self-Care For Therapists
There comes a time when burnout arises in therapists. The defence against this is to promote self-care and find the internal serenity that retains motivation for their work. This is important as in order to support their patients, therapists need to be in the right mental health as well. Emotions that run wild internally eventually cascade into their work, in this case their clients. To add to that, being mentally stressed and having apathy causes distancing in their jobs, as well as adding on to the pressure on themselves as they feel they are not good enough.
Self-care ranges from micro to macro genres. Micro self-care focuses on things that these practitioners can do on a daily or regular basis that fits into their lifestyle and free time. These include practices like breathing techniques, starting their day with love from their family or partner, having support from friends through even simple texts throughout the day, and setting a daily plan to prepare themselves for the work day ahead so that they can fit in the little things that make their day just that little bit better, like their favourite cup of coffee. Self-love also falls under this category, where the call to action is to have specific exercises that work individually, like meditation, to calm the mind and escape from the stress of reality for a short session.
Macro self-care involves things on a larger scale of solution. Proper diet and a healthy lifestyle is one of the more important aspects of this type of self-care. This will help regulate stress and as they say, a healthy body is a healthy mind. Other activities include going on a vacation, and treating themselves with the things they want and not necessarily need. Everyone deserves to pamper themselves once in a while, and these things play a huge part in mental well-being.
Personal Experience With Therapists
I’ve seen therapists for my bipolar disorder for a few years earlier in my adulthood. I’ve always noticed that the few therapists that have helped me always put their complete trust in me to listen and recover based on their support and solutions. What I could also notice is that my therapists stayed committed to my recovery, and when I contacted them outside of appointment hours, they still were very open and helpful. From a client’s viewpoint, this is great, as I know I have support whenever I need it. But I personally feel that therapists need to delegate time for themselves, outside of working hours, to work on themselves and do the things that brighten up their lives as well. Of course, the after-hours calls are sort of mandatory in their jobs, and they have to be on call for emergency situations. However, I feel that the company they work for should provide some sort of balance for the therapists, to give them time for themselves. No one should live their life solely on work. It takes a toll on their mental health, and will ultimately affect their performance as well. So to reiterate, balance is key.
Being a therapist is rewarding as well as daunting to some. Seeing your clients recover and being the one that directly instils healing in them does bring a sense of achievement to the practitioners. Life if full of ups and downs, and mental therapists are one of, if not the first line of defence to tackle the paradox of the struggles of the mind. However, as gratifying as it is to be a mental health practitioner, these professionals need to focus on themselves as well. They need to come to terms with their wellbeing, and not leave their lives in the hands of their job. What they are doing is important, and highly respectable, but without taking care of themselves first, they won’t be able to be as supportive and effective for their clients.
Everyone needs space and time for themselves. Being happy and grounded is not something that just happens. As much as therapists know how to fix others, they need to know how to fix themselves too. It’s ironic, but they are as I’ve said, human.
To all the mental health practitioners in the workforce, thank you for your contribution to the community when we needed you the most. Your efforts are greatly appreciated, and I hope you know that. Live for yourself first, then we can have chats about how much I wanted to cry over a breakup. Take care.
A Word From A Space Between
As a mental health practitioner, it isn’t easy to maintain good balance between work and the things that make your days that much better. Commitment to the job can take a toll on your own mental health as well. Learn to instil discipline in yourself, and don’t push yourself to an edge where downhill is the only option. Love yourself, then you can love others.