What Is a Responsible Therapist to Do?
- Recognize that self -preservation is not selfish. You can’t fill someone else’s cup when yours is empty.
- Take an inventory of the stressors in your life.
- Note the signs of compassion fatigue which include:
Physical and emotional exhaustion
Feeling a lack of job satisfaction and an ongoing desire to avoid work
Becoming socially isolated
Depersonalization (symptoms disconnected from real causes)
Anger and frustration toward clients
- Theory and book knowledge only go so far. Practical application of all you have learned is as useful for you as for your clients.
- If you have a spiritual practice, incorporate it to maintain equilibrium.
- Engage in scrupulous self-care which could include: adequate sleep, healthy nutritional choices, exercise, massage, meditation, yoga and down time; in whatever way you define it.
- Invest in yourself by time with those who nurture your wellbeing.
- Listen to music.
- Make music.
- Attend fun activities.
- Journal about your feelings.
- Avoid ‘playing therapist’ when you are off duty, as the tendency is to maintain that role with people in your personal life.
- Steer clear of substances that are self- medicating, to prevent feeling the effects of time with clients.
- Seek support from colleagues or supervisors.
- Take vacations to locales that refill your tank.
- Get up from your desk and take stretch breaks in between clients.
- Acknowledge the losses and trauma in your own life that may be reflected in the stories told by your clients.
- Read books that focus on therapist’s needs for support, including Help for the Helper: The Psychophysiology of Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma by Babette Rothschild, Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization and Trauma and the Therapist: Countertransference and Vicarious Traumatization in Psychotherapy with Incest Survivors by Karen W. Saakvitneand Laurie Anne Pearlman.
- Take Continuing Education classes that offer skills to assist you in providing the best care for yourself, so you can better care for those you serve.
- See a therapist yourself if need be.
- Ask yourself about the suggestions you would offer a client who was facing work related stressors.
- Know that even as a professional, you are not immune to the challenges that befall clients. You are human, after all.
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