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5 Self-Care Tips For Therapists

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You take good care of you clients but are you taking good care of you? Being a therapist in private practice is incredibly fulfilling and very emotionally draining. While it’s an honor to be trusted with client’s deepest fears, pain, and vulnerabilities, it can take an emotional toll.

Therapists seem to be particularly vulnerable to putting our own needs on the back burner to attend to others. It’s why we’re good at what we do. It’s also why prioritizing self-care is crucial to professional and personal success, and to avoiding burnout.

At work and at home (I’m a wife and mother of 4 children) I emotionally and physically nurture others, so I’ve had to work hard to figure out what I need and how to prioritize self-care. Here are some ways that I’ve learned to take good care of myself as a private practitioner.

1) Start and end sessions on time

Build in 10-15 minutes in between clients to take a bathroom break, do some deep breathing, have a snack, clear your head, or consult with another therapist. Don’t give away your time to clients at your own expense or you’ll end up resenting them because your needs aren’t being met.

2) Remember to eat and drink

This sounds so basic, but I’ve had times when hours would go by before I realized that I was parched and famished! I used to book  8-10 clients a day without scheduling a break assuming that someone would cancel or no-show. On the days where no one did I’d work straight through. Exhausted and starving I usually grabbed junk food and a sip of water. I’ve learned to build in time to eat and drink so I can maintain my energy level.

3) Schedule transition time after work

Take a few minutes to clear your head so you don’t bring the emotions of work into your personal time. If you have a commute you may want to listen to relaxing music on your drive home. There was a period of time where I’d work out at the end of my work day to help release the stress of the work day before heading home and that worked well. Take a few minutes to “shift gears” after work.

4) Get consultation and supervision

It’s crucial to build in support for your emotional and professional needs in order to prevent burnout. Meet with colleagues to process countertransference and consult on difficult cases so you don’t internalize your client’s issues. This is particularly important for solo private practitioners to prevent isolation.

5) Solve recurring complaints quickly

If you have chronic complaints about your practice, act quickly to resolve them.  If you hate your office space, start looking for a new one. If you are overwhelmed by paperwork, reports, and managed care authorizations, consider hiring office help. Take action when something is bothering you so it doesn’t drain your emotional energy.

One of the benefits of being in private practice is that you are in charge of your own schedule. Be sure to build your self-care into your schedule. We are modeling self-care for our clients so let’s make sure we’re practicing what we preach.

What do you do to “fill your own bucket” during your work day so you can continue to feel energized, to be effective with clients, to manage your practice, and maintain a personal life? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Feel free to comment below.

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photo credit: rofanator

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.

Comments

Maureen

If I am going to schedule back to back clients, I try not to schedule heavy ones back to back. I allow myself at least a half hour break before and after a heavy case client.

Sometimes even getting out of the office for a bit helps a lot. Seeing the sun provides energy as opposed to working in the office all day only to come out and it’s already dark.

Yes talking with other peers for consultation is immensely helpful!

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Gab

Discover the client population with whom you are most effective and try to stick closely to that caseload. You will know you have found a niche when you feel energized by your work. If you are feeling especially drained and dreading your day, you may be working with the wrong population. And if you don’t have a receptionist, try using texting to set appointments, appointment reminders and minor clarifications. The less time on the phone, the better.. at least for me.

Perri Jacobs

I make a habit of arriving at the office an hour early each day (and I’m not a morning person). This was initially difficult but once I realized how much it helped during the day I could not give it up. I use the time to review the charts, make phone calls, do paperwork from the day before, and any other tasks that will allow me to flow in a more relaxed way through the client caseload of that particular day. I also use the time for reflection, prayer, and meditation in order to become more centered and calm.

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