Each day we are entrusted with our client’s life stories that encompass heartbreak, loss, sadness, and fear. Clients look to us for relief from their pain, and we care deeply. Sometimes we unwittingly become receptacles for these difficult feelings and have a hard time leaving them at the office. Emotional burnout then sets in which can leave us prone to health issues, job dissatisfaction, and personal relationship problems. As helping professionals, it is critical that we take care of ourselves so that we are able to best serve our clients.
Burnout doesn’t happen all at once. It happens gradually, and it is easy to miss the early stages. Ask yourself if any of these warning signs are happening to you:
- Are you starting to dread going into the office?
- Have you arrived late to a session?
- Do you feel relief when a client cancels?
- Do you find yourself not returning client calls promptly?
- Do you daydream during sessions?
- Are you self-disclosing more than usual?
- Do you wish you had a job that was less emotionally taxing?
- Are you feeling less empathetic toward your clients?
- Are you feeling less empathetic toward your family?
- Are you snapping at people around you because you are tired and drained?
- Are your family or friends commenting that you are acting differently?
The good news is that emotional burnout is both preventable and fixable. The key to both is self-care… something we often preach to our clients, right? So it’s time to put your tools to work for yourself. Here are some ideas to help you beat the burnout:
- Get personal therapy
- Find a hobby that has nothing to do with helping people
- Watch a comedy and just say no to dramas
- Spend time with friends who don’t want free therapy
- Keep your boundaries and leave work at the office
- Take vacation, and unplug
- Get a supervisor or join a consulting group
- Expand your practice into other areas such as teaching, writing, or supervising to tap into other skills/interests
- Tap into multiple streams of income and passive income opportunities
- Work fewer or shorter days
- Limit your number of clients
- Don’t schedule clients back-to-back
- Consider without shame the possibility of leaving private practice to either work in an agency setting or explore a new career
Being a therapist may be your calling, but remember to ask yourself who you are helping if you burnout. You must put your own oxygen mask on first. Self-care allows us to best serve our clients, our families, and ourselves. You give so much to others. Now it’s time to give to yourself.