The Silent Struggles of Therapists: Part 1 – Burnout

By Emily Heimberger, LPC-Associate
Supervised by Jennifer Buffalo, LPC-S, LMFT

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It reduces productivity and energy levels, resulting in feelings of helplessness, cynicism, resentment, and more.. The effects of burnout can impact all areas of life, including home, work, and social life.

Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that between 21% – 61% of mental health practitioners experience signs of burnout at some point in their careers. This finding highlights the increasing need for intervention on both the individual level and the systemic level. This blog post is dedicated to raising awareness of burnout, as well as offering treatment and prevention solutions.

What causes burnout?

There isn’t a single cause of burnout; instead, it usually results from a combination of factors. Here are some common causes:

1. Emotional intensity
2. Heavy workload
3. Lack of work-life balance
4. Limited resources
5. Inadequate support
6. Administrative burden
7. Work environment
8. High expectations
9. Role ambiguity
10. Financial stress
11. Trauma exposure
12. Stigma and professional identity
13. Ethical dilemmas
14. Career dissatisfaction

What are signs of burnout?

Burnout can manifest in various ways, and the signs and symptoms can differ from person to person. However, some common signs of burnout include:

Physical

1. Fatigue
2. Sleep difficulties
3. Headaches
4. Muscle pain
5. Digestive problems
6. Weakened immune system
7. Changes in appetite
8. Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Emotional

1. Helplessness
2. Cynicism
3. Detachment
4. Feelings of failure
5. Decreased satisfaction
6. Irritability
7. Loss of motivation and interest
8. Decreased empathy

Behavioral

1. Decreased performance
2. Increased procrastination
3. Withdrawal
4. Social isolation
5. Neglecting personal needs
6. Disengagement
7. Impaired decision-making
8. Avoiding responsibilities

**If you or someone you know is exhibiting these signs of burnout, please seek support from a qualified professional.

What is the professional impact of burnout?

Burnout can have significant professional impacts, affecting both the mental health professional and the clients. Here are some of the professional consequences of burnout:

1. Impaired job performance
2. Decreased effectiveness
3. Reduced quality of care
4. Strained therapeutic relationships
5. Increased stress and anxiety
6. Decreased job satisfaction
7. Increased boundary violations
8. Reduced empathy
9. Higher turnover rates
10. Diminished professional relationships

How do you treat and/or prevent burnout?

Both treatment and prevention of burnout involve a combination of individual self-care strategies and supportive organizational practices. Here are some approaches for both:

1. Evaluate workload
2. Maintain a healthy work-life balance
3. Regular self-assessment
4. Cultivate meaningful relationships
5. Professional development
6. Implement flexible scheduling
7. Personal counseling
8. Establish clear boundaries
9. Advocate for change
10. Seek consultation or peer support
11. Practice self-care
12. Engage in recreational activities

Therapists, you have dedicated yourselves to helping others. Now, it’s time to help yourselves. By taking action to address burnout, you’re not only preserving your own well-being but also ensuring that you can continue to provide the best care to your clients. You deserve it.

We would be honored to hear about your experience with burnout and how we can best support you. Reach out to us at contact@luminarycounseling.com to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation.

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contact@luminarycounseling.com

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