Jennifer Rollin recently spoke with Katie Krimer, MS, LMSW on this important issue affecting mental health professionals.

Jennifer: What kind of therapy do you practice?

Katie: I practice at a private outpatient clinic with services that range anywhere from neuropsychological testing to sport and performance psychology.

I practice mainly from a mindfulness-based perspective, but I have training in ACT, CBT, and Motivational Interviewing as well. I practice with an eclectic approach, always tailoring my approaches to individual patients.

Some patients are immediately excited to learn about mindfulness, for example, while others have never even heard of it. I especially love to introduce people to this practice and to help adapt it to their individual needs. I work with average to high-functioning adults ages 18 and up, but my favorite and most frequent population are the college aged and post-college aged folk.

The issues that I often cover are anxiety, depression, borderline personality features, self-esteem and identity issues, trauma, relationship issues, eating disorders and many other challenges that someone may have.

I particularly love to work with patients on developing their muscle of self-compassion, to help improve self-esteem and self-confidence in order to help them conquer the world around them and develop more fulfilling, present lives

Jennifer: How long have you been in private practice?

Katie: I have been in private practice for about three years now. Previously, I worked at another outpatient setting with a more diverse population and who were lower-functioning and had difficulty with insight-building.

I hope to continue working in private practice, but expand my reach to other community-based programs in my time off.

Jennifer: What are some things that you wish you knew about work/life balance when starting out in private practice?

Katie: To be honest, I’ve been learning as I’ve gone along and I didn’t necessarily have any expectations that were shattered or that surprised me (part of my mindfulness approach to life is to work on not having any attachment to expectations, but to take things as they come).

There weren’t any huge surprises to me when I entered private practice regarding a work/life balance, but I did find that it was important to know that because everyone’s schedule is very different. I would have to be very flexible regarding the hours that I would set for myself each week.

Jennifer: How do you ensure that you find a good balance between work/life?

Katie: When I was 18-years-old and I had my first real experience at an intense psychological inpatient facility doing an internship at Seattle Children’s Hospital, I remember going home after a 10 hour shift and crying for an hour.

I would wonder how I was going to do this work if I had brought so much of my work home with me. Luckily, after almost 10 years of working in various mental health settings, including schools, residential facilities, geriatric facilities, etc., I have developed a pretty mindful practice regarding leaving work, at work.

Of course, it comes with the job that sometimes I get e-mails or an occasional emergency phone call outside of work, but it has become more reflexive to me to know that I don’t need to take my work home with me.

I can be compassionate and empathic and be there fully with my clients in my office, but I know that when I go home, it’s my time to be with myself and those that I love. And this is incredibly important when it comes to self-care and just having boundaries between a job where you are so involved in other peoples’ lives and struggles.

I make sure that while I’m flexible with my scheduling, I also create a schedule that also allows me to de-compress,and that allows me to have the time to do other things that I love. For example, I only have two mornings of the week into which I slot patients — and the rest are day and evening slots.

As someone who’s generally so incredibly connected to humans around me, it is a conscious choice and effort (though it gets easier with time), to disconnect from the clients with whom I grow such close bonds. Sometimes, to keep the balance, I need to remind myself that I don’t need to answer that e-mail from them immediately, or if I’m ruminating on a particular situation with a client, that I make an effort to bring myself back to the present and remind myself that I have a life outside of connecting with those people.

Most of all, I remind myself that I can’t save or change anyone, that I’m there as a guide and support system, someone to help others feel okay being ‘seen,’ and this takes a lot of pressure off of me

Jennifer: What are some of your favorite regular self-care strategies?

Katie: Meditation, of course! Even if it’s not necessarily a full 10 minutes, I try and sit down and check in with myself and just practice returning to the present moment as I observe my mind wandering. Currently, I’m completing the ‘Balance’ pack in the Headspace app, and I love it.

I love to do something good for myself every week — whether it’s to get a massage, to do an at-home facial, to grab a few slices of pizza when I’m craving them. It’s so important to make an effort to be with yourself and engage in something restorative for yourself.

I love yoga — and even if I can’t make it to a class, I’m always trying to stretch or go through some sequences on my mat at home.

I love to go on walks. I live really close to Prospect Park, so those trails see a lot of my feet every single week.

I spend time with my friends and we make sure to laugh a lot. Laughter is really incredible medicine. Part of my self-care is reminding myself that I’m okay, that I’m not out here to save the world (even when it feels like I should be some how), that in the grand scheme of things, there are so many parts of my life that are just as important as my work.

Reading helps me go into another universe and gives my eyes a break from the ton of television that I’m always binging…

Listening to music, any time, any place. Music has incredibly restorative qualities and I have playlists for different moods in my Spotify account.

Jennifer: What do you share with clients who are struggling with juggling work and other responsibilities?

Katie: Working is a very big reality — especially in the states, and even more so, in NYC. I often hear that people here “live to work” whereas in Europe (who I think gets it more right) “work to live.”

As much as financially supporting oneself here is so essential and as much as it’s great to have ambitions and goals for yourself, it’s equally as important to support yourself emotionally, physically, etc.

It’s not always easy or possible–depending on the job–to leave work, at work. But I encourage my patients to do their best to practice that (habit). When they leave their office, they have to practice shifting their attention to whatever it is they’re doing at that current moment.

If they’re walking down the street to the subway, to pay attention to their surroundings and explore even the three minute journey to get to the underground. On the subway, listen to music or read or just to try and enjoy the ride. When they get home, hug their dogs and cats and partners and children and to be present with them.

To make that what matters in that given moment.. So much of our energy is used up to worry or to perseverate on things we could have done or things we have to do. We could use that precious time and energy instead to actually attend to other responsibilities and to practice enjoyment in whatever activities we’re involved in outside of work. Work will continue to be there, and you can get back to it when you get back to it. What will you have to say for yourself when you realize you haven’t spent a good portion of your life actually living?