Out On The Couch
Being an affirmative psychotherapist is an important and selfless job, but when you’re so caught up in caring for others, it’s easy to overlook your own well-being.
For your sake and the sake of your clients, it’s crucial to take the occasional step back to focus on your own needs. Here are five essential self-care tips for psychotherapists and other mental health professionals. These tips will help you manage burnout and be your best self.
The Symptoms of Burnout
Recognizing the symptoms of burnout is crucial to avoiding it. Common signs of burnout include anxiety, apathy, mental and physical exhaustion, depression, and trouble concentrating. You may also notice that you start to depersonalize your clients. Instead of seeing them as people, you start to see them as ‘cases’ or another ‘job’ to complete.
What Does Self Care Mean to You?
Self-care means different things to different people. For some, it means immersing themselves in a hobby. For others, it’s spending time with family and friends. What does it mean to you? Find what works for you and roll with it. Make it part of your weekly or daily routine rather than something you add “when you have time.”
Take a Self-Care Day
If you’re feeling burnt out, don’t force yourself to work through it. Burnout grows stronger the longer you leave it to fester. Instead, take a break. Call out of work for a day, spend a weekend doing what you love, or set aside a few minutes for a breather.
Research supports that employers who allow workers to use 20 percent of their time to work on projects that excite them reduces burnout (Pink, 2011). Perhaps affirmative psychotherapists need to implement this idea into their own practices.
Know You’re Not Alone
The next essential self-care tip for psychotherapists is to know you’re not alone! Everyone experiences burnout at some point in their lives. Don’t be afraid to reach out—call your loved ones, lean on your coworkers, find and join a support group, or seek professional help when you need it.
Know You’re Not at Fault
As affirmative therapists, our work also gets more stressful when our lives become politicized. When legislation that oppresses our bodies and love lives surfaces, when hate crimes take the lives of people whose identities we share, and when predominant figures spew hate speech, our work becomes harder, as we have to manage our own responses to society in addition to caring for our clients.
Society often puts too much pressure on the individual when it comes to mental health, when society is what’s causing us to feel burnt out in the first place. Self-care can ease feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress, but it won’t eliminate them. At the end of the day, a bubble bath or a face mask doesn’t address the reason you’re feeling the way you do, whether it’s the result of discrimination, an unsustainable work schedule, or something else.
There’s nothing wrong with practicing self-care to relieve stress and boost your spirits, but know that it can’t solve everything and that a lack of self-care isn’t the reason you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or exhausted.
We can’t change society with the snap of a finger, but we can take strides toward making it a safer, happier, and more inclusive place. As an affirmative psychotherapist, you’re part of the solution! The Affirmative Couch offers affirmative psychotherapy courses for psychotherapists seeking training on clinical work with CNM, kink, and LGBTQIA+ communities. By pursuing continued education, you can make your office a welcoming space for all.
Pink, D. H. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Riverhead Books.