Self-Care Plan for Psychotherapists
Counselors have a demanding job that can affect their mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. As a result, if professional counselors do not engage in self-care, they can experience a decline in their physical or mental state. Self-care activities are extremely important to mental health counselors since they help psychotherapists to evade compassion fatigue resulting from the high-stress environment they work in. Counselors need to develop personal care plans to manage burnout, compassion fatigue, and trauma.
The Care Plan
A good personal care plan for psychotherapists evaluates an individual’s coping skills and identifies self-care needs. For example, a person’s coping skills may be positive or negative. Positive coping strategies can include deep breathing, meditation, stretching, exercising, listening to music, socializing with family and friends, reading, and going for a walk (Coaston, 2017). Negative coping skills that counselors should avoid include pacing, smoking, skipping meals, withdrawing from friends and family, and overeating.
An effective personal care plan for counselors should have several areas of self-care, which include physical, spiritual, emotional, professional, psychological, financial, and social. In physical self-care, psychotherapists should practice healthy behaviors to keep their bodies strong. For instance, eating healthy and regular meals will ensure the body is strong since the blood sugar will be stable, leading to increased mental focus, energy, and emotional stability. Good and enough sleep improves emotional and mental health, which reduces anxiety, fatigue, and decreased motivation. Alternatively, counselors can incorporate regular exercises and medical check-ups into their care plans (Coaston, 2017). Regular exercises improve mood by stimulating brain chemicals that leave a person happier and relaxed, reducing stress.
Emotional self-care involves engaging in positive activities, acknowledging accomplishments, and expressing emotions in healthy ways. Counselors have to care for their emotional needs through recognizing and nurturing their feelings, intellect, and mindful inner state. Therapists can engage in spiritual self-care by reading inspirational literature and self-reflection. Self-reflection enables counselors to be honest and vulnerable, allowing them to correctly identify their worries, successes, and stressors (Coaston, 2017). Personal care can entail spending time in nature and meditating, which can help to manage anxiety, reduce depression and stress as well as increase gratitude.
The professional, psychological, financial, and social aspects of self-care are essential in maintaining personal care for counselors. Self-care activities in a professional psychotherapist’s life include pursuing meaningful work, maintaining work-life balance, creating positive relations with co-workers, and practicing effective time management. Such self-care acts will improve a counselor’s professional life. Social personal care for psychotherapists involves creating healthy relationships with friends, making time for family, and asking for support from confidants. It is essential for counselors to create a budget and debt as well as understand how finances can impact their life. Psychological personal care will entail counselors taking time for themselves, disconnecting from smartphones, pursuing new interests, and learning new skills, enabling them to rejuvenate (Coaston, 2017). It is crucial to comprehend that a self-care plan should be consistent and achieved through weekly milestones.
A situation with the experience counselor burnout
A situation in which counselors can experience burnout is when they have case overload, which increases job stress and the demands of treating mentally ill patients. Counselors can be overwhelmed by the multiple and different conditions that clients suffer from. As a result, they become emotionally exhausted and depersonalized. Burnout can be caused by a lack of belonging in the workplace, stigma and high expectations, and regulatory burdens. Counselors with lower perceptions of support and those who lack a sense of belonging in the workplace have a high chance of experiencing burnout. The high expectations of counselors being required to put the needs of patients before theirs risk the lives of psychotherapists who do not take care of their needs first (Yang & Hayes, 2020). Regulatory burdens such as staffing shortages and company consolidations hinder the capability of therapists to achieve work-life balance, leading to career dissatisfaction and increased stress.
How burnout differs from compassion fatigue
Counselors need to understand the differences between burnout and compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is the profound physical and emotional that happens when counselors cannot regenerate and refuel, whereas burnout is the result of emotional and physical exhaustion that counselors experience when they feel powerless, overwhelmed, and dissatisfied at work. Additionally, burnout emerges over a long time while compassion fatigue occurs rapidly. Counselors can manage burnout and compassion fatigue by practicing personal restoration and growing as a person. Personal restoration can involve exercise, therapy, spiritual practice, and proper sleep (Yang & Hayes, 2020). Furthermore, burnout can be managed through a counselor making time to do what they love.
Vicarious trauma is a negative transformation that a counselor undergoes due to the empathic interaction with traumatized patients and events. Factors that increase the risk of developing vicarious trauma include past traumatic experiences, social isolation, working with trauma survivors, and constant exposure to traumatic work experiences. Therapists can manage vicarious trauma by increasing self-observation to recognize and chart stress signs (Rauvola et al., 2019). Additionally, counselors can manage vicarious trauma by taking care of themselves through engagement in self-soothing and relaxing activities.
When counselors are triggered by clients’ reports, they can focus on deep and rhythmic breathing and find someone to share how they feel (Rauvola et al., 2019). Furthermore, counselors can concentrate on progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress and tension levels.
In conclusion, a counselor should have a care plan to manage and avoid burnout, compassion fatigue, and trauma. Before developing a self-care plan for counselors, it is crucial to identify the coping strategies and personal care needs. A good care plan for counselors should include activities such as regular exercise and eating well to improve their state of mind. Enough sleep, effective management of finances, and creating healthy relationships. Counselors need to understand the signs and remedies of vicarious trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
Coaston, S. C. (2017). Self-care through self-compassion: A balm for burnout. Professional Counselor, 7(3), 285-297. Web.
Rauvola, R. S., Vega, D. M., & Lavigne, K. N. (2019). Compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and vicarious traumatization: A qualitative review and research agenda. Occupational Health Science, 3(3), 297-336. Web.
Yang, Y., & Hayes, J. A. (2020). Causes and consequences of burnout among mental health professionals: A practice-oriented review of the recent empirical literature. Psychotherapy, 57(3), 426–436. Web.