Supervised by Jennifer Buffalo, LPC-S, LMFT
As therapists, it can feel like we talk about self-care and needs-meeting strategies all day, every day. Because of the nature of our professional relationships with clients, we focus a lot on other people’s needs, and it often takes really intentional effort to notice and attend to our own needs on a regular basis. Sustainable self-care is vital for our well-being as humans, and for our wellness and competency as professionals. The key word here is sustainable – many of us know by now that taking a vacation or booking a spa day is unlikely to single-handedly prevent burnout. Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start in practicing our own self-care, despite us helping our clients with this very skill. Let’s dive into some areas of professional self-care that you can start experimenting with to see how it fits in your own care routines:
1. Boundaries around scheduling
It’s important for mental health providers to be aware of the times and days they are *truly* available for clients. Attuning to this can include noticing what times of day you tend to have more or less energy, how much time you need between sessions to attend to your own basic needs, and how many clients you can see in a day and retain enough capacity to care for yourself at the end of it. The setting you work in may affect how much control you have in your schedule, and it’s possible some self-advocacy could be helpful to discern where you may have more flexibility and where the hard lines are for your organization.
2. Transition routines
It can be very helpful to have a transition routine for before and after clinical work. What helps you to feel warmed up for clinical work? Maybe it’s listening to a therapy-related podcast on the way to the office, or your favorite album. If you work from home, maybe it’s as simple as changing into “work” clothes, and reviewing your schedule for the day prior to getting started. What helps you shift into your home life after the work day? Some therapists feel supported by physical or symbolic releases, like exercise or showering off the day. It’s helpful to note here that whether you go into a physical office or work from home, the physical separation of a work space and a home space can help a lot with the psychological separation of our work and personal lives.
3. Balancing self-compassion and continued growth
As newer therapists, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with all there is to learn. While we certainly should strive to stay up to date on research and engage with continuing education, it’s also important for us to trust our clinical intuition and the skills we already have. Our clients benefit greatly from the safety, trust, and relationships we build with them, aside from any theories we use or tools we provide them. When we welcome the parts of ourselves that are still learning (hint: even seasoned therapists don’t know everything), we are also allowing more authenticity with our clients.
As you settle into your identity as a therapist, your ways of caring for your wellbeing as a professional and as a human will develop with you. This blog is intended to be a jumping off point for your own personal exploration of what works for you – take what works for you and make it your own! Self-care is deeply personal, even when it comes to professional self-care. Take care!
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