This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Koenig, LCSW, a clinical social worker, blogger, and author, on the topic of self-care for therapists.

As helping professionals, it is crucial that we work to practice self-care. Self-care is helpful and necessary for everyone. However, as clinicians we spend a lot of time in emotionally-charged sessions. Thus, it is especially important that we practice self-care. Self-care enables us to have happier and healthier lives and to be more effective with the patients we serve.

Jennifer: Hi Karen. Thanks for taking the time out to speak with me. What interests you about this topic?

Karen:  I’m a clinical social worker, blogger and author of seven books. I’ve been in practice for 30 years and believe I take good care of myself. This is a great question as therapists can often tend toward taking care of others better than they care for themselves.

Jennifer: What are some areas where you struggle when it comes to self-care?

Karen: Often I try to do too much, not out of obligation but because there’s so much that brings me pleasure in life: working with clients, writing, socializing, hobbies. I wish there were more hours in a day to do all the things I enjoy. I also probably don’t take enough vacations, but I’ve been taking more stay-cations over the past few years and that gives me quality down time. Nearing 70, I’m also aware of my mortality and want to do and go for as long as I can.

Jennifer: What are some things that you do on a daily basis for self-care?

Karen: My husband and I take a late afternoon or evening 30-minute walk up and down our street pretty much every day. I try to write most days, even if it’s only a blog, because writing brings me such pleasure. Also, I enjoy staying connected to friends via email daily, reading the newspaper in the morning, watching the late news and getting seven or eight hours sleep every night. And, I make sure to spend time with my cat, as much for myself as for her.

Jennifer: What are some things that you do for more infrequent self care?

Karen: I book a facial every other month which is delightful and total me time, have maybe two pedicures a years for pure indulgence and shop at thrift stores when I have the time and inclination.

Jennifer: Share why self-care is so important for helping professionals and any advice that you’d give for others in terms of enhancing their self-care.

Karen: I was not the best care-taker of myself in the first half of my life, but once I began doing it, little by little, I saw its merits. I am a firm believer that you can take good care of yourself and of others. You don’t need to choose between them and me. Too many professionals think of self-care as selfish. Not being a perfectionist, I aim for good enough on most things and shoot for excellent in a few areas. That makes for a balanced life which I think makes me a happier person and a better therapist. Self-care can’t be just about externals, but has to come from valuing yourself. When you do, self-care comes naturally.

It is also important to model self-care for clients. For example, mine know that I don’t start sessions until 12:15p because I’m not an early riser and spend mornings exercising and doing other things. They also know that Monday nights I go to a various discussion groups and Thursday nights I take tap and jazz classes.