Topic 2: Professional Identity and Self-Care {by 6/6}

Based on the readings due this week consider the following two discussion points:  (1) When you hear the words “professional identity,” what comes to mind?  Is this something you have ever thought about before?  Is this important to you?  (2) What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients (e.g., What might/does get you stressed? Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress?)?  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 6/6.  Post your two replies no later than 6/8.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

57 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brittany King
    Jun 01, 2017 @ 10:31:45

    When I think of professional identity, I think of the values and beliefs a counselor holds as well as the way they describe themselves. For counselors, a professional identity is not just limited to counseling, but other pieces that encompass who the counselor is. Everyone has a different professional identity because it is personal and is based off of your journey in the field. Professional identity is the mesh between your personal attributes and professional training. I think that professional identity is something that is formed over time and can be changed as someone grows in their field. I have thought about identity in the sense of how I distinguish myself from others in the field and how my education influences the way I think about things. This past year, I identified myself as a clinician but also as an intern. That was part of my professional identity at the time. I told my clients about being an intern and what that meant for our relationship long-term. Also, being trained in CBT is another part of my professional identity. The way we are trained to think about presenting problems and how we conceptualize many things come from a CBT perspective, a major part of our professional identity. Professional identity is important to me for a couple of reasons. By identifying my professional identity, I am able to let my clients know more about me and what is important to me. Our professional identity influences our interactions with our co-workers and how relate to others. It is important to be aware of how this is impacting our interactions. When we encounter something different from our own experiences, our professional identity allows us to go back and reflect on it.

    Just the nature of the work we do as clinicians can cause burnout. For me, I love to work and many times, I am working on average 60 hours a week. Working 60 hours a week in a field that deals with some heavy topics at time will cause me to burn out very quickly. Even though I love to work a lot, in the long run, it will make this job very difficult. Also, another piece that may cause burn out is depending where I work, the amount of paperwork and admin time that needs to be devoted to the job. If it is electronic that will not cause burnout, however, at places that use paper for everything, I can foresee burnout with tedious paperwork. Knowing that this field can have quick-burn out, self-care is super important part of our jobs. For as hard as we work, it is important to take care of ourselves. One thing I do for self-care is working-out for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Since I began working-out, I have noticed a change in how I feel and how much more energy I have. This has become a part of self-care that I will not budge on and is an essential part of my routine. I need to take care of myself in order to help my clients. Even simply going for a walk on lunch break at work reduces my stress. Sometimes, when there is not time to take a walk and I can feel stressed out, I will try some deep breathing to reset. By taking deep breathes and re-focusing, it allows me to calm down and get focused. The last thing I do when I am feeling stressed out is making a list. I write things down in the order of when I need to get them completed by and anything I need to do to complete the task. By being able to visualize what I actually need to get done versus the mountain I made up in my head allows me to relax and begin to map out what I need to do. By simply putting engaging in these-self-care strategies, I can help prevent burn out from happening.

    Reply

    • Amina Lazzouni
      Jun 02, 2017 @ 16:16:30

      Brittany,
      I think you bring some really important points about self-care. I’ve never liked working out myself but have recently started and I completely agree that it makes a big difference in how you feel! I have a pretty busy schedule so some days I have to wake up early to work out and other days I’m too tired to and on the days that I skip working out, I definitely don’t feel as good. I think the suggestion of going on a walk during lunch break is a really good idea, especially when the weather is nice. I think walks are good, not only for physical reasons, but it give you the opportunity to take a break and reflect a little bit, and it’s only a bonus if you get some sun while doing that! I also think the breathing is a good idea. When I feel really overwhelmed and it starts to manifest is physiological ways, I find that taking deep breaths always helps more than I think it will. I think you bring up some really good points and give some good advice in this blog post!

      Reply

    • Emily Morse
      Jun 03, 2017 @ 12:43:45

      Brittany, I thought you brought up an important point that our theoretical background is also a big part of our professional identity. It not only informs how we conceptualize presenting problems, but also how we decide to run each therapy session and really how we present as counselors. Choosing what theoretical background(s) we want to align our work with will absolutely have an impact on our professional life. It is something I have thought a lot about recently. For me, especially being trained in a CBT program, I know I will want to incorporate a lot of parts of CBT into my professional work/professional identity. But I am also interested in training more in ACT, a third wave CBT approach, which is something that I think will also become a part of my professional identity. Overall, especially because how we conceptualize presenting problems and execute therapy is something that we should be discussing with clients, our theoretical orientation may be something that is a huge part of our professional identities.

      Reply

    • Jason Prior
      Jun 08, 2017 @ 13:29:51

      Brittany,
      I really like how you included the CBT perspective in your concept of a professional identity. As we are grounded in CBT, we not only take that as part of our identity, but we also frame our identity according to this perspective. It makes for a nice bit of reflection on what we have learned in this program. I also liked how you presented your professional identity to your clients, thereby helping them frame a way of viewing you as a professional.

      Reply

  2. Amina Lazzouni
    Jun 02, 2017 @ 16:09:39

    Prior to doing this blog post, I have not thought about my professional identity. Before applying to the counseling program at assumption, I worked in retail, and though I have always maintained a good work ethic, I never thought about myself as a professional, so I never got the opportunity to think about how kind of professional I would like to be. When I think about professional identity, a number of things come to mind. First, I think about professional values and morals within the work place and aligning myself with other professionals who have similar professional values and an agency that strand for similar values. I also think about reputation as a professional and the effort that goes into maintaining a good professional reputation. Since my career choice is being a counselor, I think about what it means to be a professional counselor. While I do associate the word professional with expertise, I also think of how to conduct myself and what that means for my professional identity. I think part of my personal professional identity is always acting ethically, and maintaining respect for both clients and colleagues. I do think that a professional identity is important because I think it shapes how one acts as a professional and who one associates with in the professional community. I think that having a good professional reputation and aligning yourself like-minded professionals will provide new, and potentially better opportunities career wise further into one’s career, so I think it always important to keep in mind what type of professional you want to be and live up to the standards you set for yourself that people may come to expect from you.

    I feel like I am already experiencing burnout, and I’m only in my practicum, so I have many concerns. I’m overloading this semester, so I work part-time, intern part-time and have four classes, so it is I rarely feel like I have enough time to do anything. On Thursdays, I have my practicum and 2 classes, so I only have a 15 minute break and can only eat while driving to class so managing such a full schedule has been very difficult and sometimes it feels like it’s not manageable. I also co-lead a group for seniors and some of their stories are difficult to hear and take an emotion toll. Since I don’t have much experience working with clients, the experience of hearing difficult life stories, or experiences with trauma has been emotional and contributed to me feeling emotionally drained. I think that being out of school, burnout will be easier to manage because the days won’t be as long, and I’m not anticipating the work load as being as much as a graduate student, so I think it will be easier to manage. Also, by then, I will have more experience with listening to difficult stories so hopefully the emotional toll will be more manageable. Regarding dealing with stress, I think that I am still working on it because I feel like I don’t really have enough time for self-care right now. My hobby is pottery, and I have a pottery wheel that I do love to use because I find working on pottery to be very relaxing and a de-stressor, but working, interning, and being in school doesn’t give me a lot of time to work on pottery, so hopefully when I am out of school (or possibly just not overloading) I will be able to use that as a tool to manage stress.

    Reply

    • Emily Morse
      Jun 03, 2017 @ 12:29:36

      Amina, I thought your comment about our work having a huge emotional toll is so important to remember. As counselors, whatever population we work with, we are going to be helping people through really difficult times in their lives. I have heard awful stories over the years in my past internships and in my current job working in research at a psychiatric hospital, and it has never stopped taking an emotional toll on me. But I also think partially that’s what can help us do good work — the fact that it can take an emotional toll shows that we genuinely care about these clients, in fact, if their awful stories didn’t affect us in any way, that would be more worrying to me. BUT, with that being said, it is SO important for us as counselors to be self-aware and realize when the emotional toll is too much and what we can do to take care of ourselves. When we engage in self-care, whatever that is for each of us individually, it will be less likely that that emotional toll will take over, and we will still be able to genuinely care for our clients AND give them the best of ourselves as counselors.

      Reply

    • Brittany King
      Jun 03, 2017 @ 15:36:31

      I finished my internship and April so I can honestly say that it does get better. The balance between work, placement, school, and life is HARD! For me, I felt like I needed more hours in the day and more days in the week. One thing that got me through was always saying “this is temporary”. Even in the five minutes you may have to yourself a day, you need to be doing something to give back to yourself. Just like I would tell a client – I picture self care like a glass of water. So this glass of water is full and every time we give to something – school, work, placement, we are emptying the glass. Eventually the glass will be empty and you will be burnt out and have nothing left for yourself. In order to not get burnt out, it is imperative that you refill your water glass so you stay “full”. Every time you give to someone or something, give back to yourself. The last year of this program is hard work but also an extremely exciting time. Make sure you put your self as a priority, even if it is five minutes a day!

      Reply

    • Lindsay Millerick
      Jun 04, 2017 @ 16:43:38

      Amina,
      Although your current schedule is difficult to manage it may help you determine guidelines for you as a professional. I think it is an important lesson to learn that overworking oneself can be very exhausting and impact all areas of life. In considering this, aspiring therapists should establish the amount of needed for oneself to maintain a balanced and happy life while also administering affective therapy. In doing so, one will be able to structure appointments based on the time related values he/she has established; taking lunch breaks, allowing enough time between clients to get into a positive state of mind, not taking on too many clients or working too many hours etc. So although balancing all of this at once is very difficult and draining, you will be able to take something out of it!

      Reply

    • Salome Wilfred
      Jun 07, 2017 @ 12:57:40

      Amina,

      Just reading your post made me feel stressed so I can’t even imagine how you feel! What I can say is that it does get easier. Summer classes are tough since everything is so condensed and classes are so long. I imagine overloading makes it even more difficult. Once you have a set schedule and you become more comfortable things will definitely get easier. Self-care is really critical for you at this point. Like you said, setting boundaries and making a set schedule will be really helpful. I fell into frequently agreeing to see people at times I wasn’t planning to be at my placement when I first started. Once I stopped doing that and stuck to my set schedule I found that I was a lot less stressed and had more time for self-care.

      Reply

  3. Emily Morse
    Jun 03, 2017 @ 12:20:26

    1. When I hear the words “professional identity,” I think of the core values you work to uphold as a professional in whatever field you are in. These can include things such as fairness, being genuine, professional integrity, empathy, and really whatever values or morals are most important to you in your professional life. This is something I have thought about before as I was always surrounded by it. My mother’s family owns a law firm that she is a partner in, and I can remember professional identity being something very important to her, her father, and her siblings, especially in a smaller family business. I can remember people finding out I was the daughter or niece of the law firm and telling me that my mother or uncles were genuine and kind lawyers who did great work. This was their takeaway from working with my family members because this was the professional identity my family members put forward. When I think “professional identity,” I think of how you want your clients, colleagues, bosses, etc. to view you and describe you to others. Therefore, this is something that is important to me. As a professional counselor, I want my future clients to view my professional identity as empathetic, genuine, and competent.
    2. Self-care is vital to doing good work as a counselor. Without self-care, you will eventually burnout, make mistakes, or not gain enjoyment from your job anymore. My greatest concern with self-care is overscheduling myself. I have a tendency to try to fill all my idle time with something productive, therefore I know I could easily start to overbook myself and not give myself enough time to decompress, take a break, and reset my brain. I know I get most stressed when I overbook myself and don’t allow myself time for these necessary breaks. Therefore, I think the most helpful thing for me would be paying attention to my schedule, setting a strict amount of hours I will see clients a week, and trying my best to follow this (as much as each week will allow). I know I have to be very self-aware of when I am reaching my limit, and schedule specific times just for breaks. I have found what works for me is making sure my schedule allows for me to go to the gym, where I can decompress and just focus on myself and my workout. I also find it helpful to schedule times to socialize, whether it be visiting my family or hanging out with my friends, just having time with people who know me best that I don’t have to put on any sort of act for. In the past, I have found these strategies to really help when I feel like I am heading towards a burnout. I imagine that as I get into the field and a workplace, I will incorporate these self-care habits as well as eventually find what works best for me in regards to scheduling.

    Reply

    • Amina Lazzouni
      Jun 04, 2017 @ 16:45:47

      Emily,
      I like that part of your post that talks about people only having good things to say about your family’s law firm. I talked a little bit about reputation in my post and I think how people view you and your professional reputation is so important. I think the values that you want to be known for: empathy, genuineness, and competence are important because I think all three are important aspects of being a counselor and are important qualities to have as a part of your professional identity. I also think what you said about scheduling to socialize. I think if you schedule self-care, it helps to not over work yourself, and even if you schedule is very full, at least part of it will be dedicated to self-care, which as you explained is very important.

      Reply

    • Lindsay Millerick
      Jun 04, 2017 @ 16:50:32

      Emily,
      I think it is really advantageous that you are already aware of some of your limits before even entering into your professional career. This will allow you to take measures to avoid and minimize burnout. It is also an important point that ALL therapists will experience burnout at some point. No one is perfect, and this career can be very emotionally demanding at times. It is essential that we do not perceive the experience of burnout as failure, but as a normal, reasonable, and inevitable. Experiencing burnout bares no reflection of your abilities as a therapist or your personal values, it is simply an indication that self-care must be made priority.

      Reply

    • Brittany King
      Jun 04, 2017 @ 17:55:27

      I really appreciate what you wrote about professional identity. For me, how my colleagues, peers, clients, and others think of me in my profession is important. As a counselor, I want my clients and colleagues to feel like I am empathetic, reliable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable. If they do not think that of me like that, something is not lining up with my identity. I think professional identity entails so much more than I originally thought it was and it is very subjective. For you, having that family business in the back of your mind, you already have a great base for what professional identity means to you!

      Reply

    • Meagan Monteiro
      Jun 05, 2017 @ 20:44:59

      Emily,

      I appreciate you talking about the importance of professional identity and reputation. I really think that how we conduct ourselves with other professionals and our clients will shape our reputations and our future experiences. I think it is important to remember our reputations and professional identity, specifically when we are burned out as part of our professional identity is how we handle burn out and take care of ourselves.

      I am a hardcore planner and will have to do a better job at planning out my self-care and holding myself more accountable with that. Thanks for the idea!

      Reply

    • Jackie Bradley
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 23:08:40

      Emily,
      I envy your passion for scheduling your days and weeks, as I have never been that type of person. As I have progressed into this program though, I have started to find myself making lists of things to be done the following day, and scheduling how I will spend my time. I definitely agree with you that scheduling time for yourself is a vital aspect of self-care in our work field. We obviously all have a passion to help others and focus on our clients, but it is obviously so important to remember that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of our clients to the best of our abilities. As school continues and practicum turns into internship, I definitely fear the burnout feeling may increase for me, so I am planning on doing what you do, and scheduling times that are for myself. Planning going to the gym or events with friends will help me to decompress and take a break for a little.

      Reply

  4. Lindsay Millerick
    Jun 04, 2017 @ 16:34:40

    I consider one’s professional identity to be characterized by his/her therapeutic orientation, approach to counseling, preferred demographic/professional setting, values, goals, and specializations and their relation to another. Based on my own understanding, I feel as though I am too early in the process to determine my professional identity although I have given it consideration. While my education thus far at Assumption has focused on CBT (and I think favorably of this orientation), without exploring other orientations, I cannot definitively recognize CBT as my preferred method. I am hoping that my practicum/internship will help me more clearly determine which orientation I prefer as the program primarily uses ACT. Further, until I have accrued more experience administering individual counseling, I cannot identify which approach works best for me as a counselor, or whether or not a number of different approaches would best suit me. I am more readily able to determine my values and goals as a counselor regardless of lack of experience. I value hard-work, empathy, genuineness, and effectiveness, and my goals are to help clients improve their mental health and develop the ability to successfully manage themselves in the future. Further, I would at some point in time like to open a private practice and have considered teaching entry level psychology courses. I find it difficult to determine whether or not you have the education and experience to call yourself an expert as there are no specific guidelines or additional certifications to officially label yourself as such. I am unsure at this time in what area I would consider specializing in or if I would consider specializing in a particular area at all.

    I am concerned that the pressures of life may negatively impact my effectiveness as a counselor. Although engaging in a rewarding career is important to me, I would by no means consider it to be an essential part of my life and would therefore find it difficult to have a successful career if the areas I do consider to be important are being challenged; family, friends, mental/physical health, etc. Fortunately, I do have a number of activities at my disposal that would help me cope with challenges, but do hope to identify more as some of these may not be available in the future, or may not be effective enough in times of extreme distress. Another concern I have is that repeated exposure to particular mental health diagnoses will cause me to become desensitized and seriously challenge my ability to empathize with clients and prevent them from receiving optimal therapy. For example, if in my experience as a counselor I have repeatedly treated individuals with substance use problems that do not cooperate with his/her treatment, I might unintentionally attach my negative past experiences to a current client. My disinterest and lack of empathy may set the tone for the course of therapy making it less likely that this client WILL be active in treatment, thus confirming my beliefs. Though it may be useful to remind myself that everyone is unique, I am unsure of other ways to prevent this. A potential solution to avoiding burnout may be to change the demographic or facility in which one works when there are early signs of burnout in order to help the therapist regain energy and motivation.

    Reply

    • Jacleen Charbonneau
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 14:43:21

      Lindsay,

      I really like how you defined professional identity. When thinking of professional identity, I usually think of one particular aspect, such as how a person thinks of himself or herself as a whole. Your definition really broke down the different aspects that play into a professional identity that are probably often unthought of. For instance, your mention about one’s preferred setting as part of professional identity is something I never really thought about but is very accurate. Different environments work for different preferences, so even if one is doing the job they want to do but not in the setting they prefer, I am sure that would impact their own professional identity.

      Reply

  5. Amina Lazzouni
    Jun 04, 2017 @ 16:44:49

    Emily,
    I like that part of your post that talks about people only having good things to say about your family’s law firm. I talked a little bit about reputation in my post and I think how people view you and your professional reputation is so important. I think the values that you want to be known for: empathy, genuineness, and competence are important because I think all three are important aspects of being a counselor and are important qualities to have as a part of your professional identity. I also think what you said about scheduling to socialize. I think if you schedule self-care, it helps to not over work yourself, and even if you schedule is very full, at least part of it will be dedicated to self-care, which as you explained is very important.

    Reply

  6. Stephanie Halley
    Jun 05, 2017 @ 17:36:23

    1) When I hear the term “professional identity,” I think there are many key factors that encompass that, just as a personal identity would. Factors such as values, beliefs, and training all are relevant, however so are personal factors. Counselors come from various clinical backgrounds, even us as Assumption graduate students. We are all in the same classroom, learning the same curriculum, but every single one of us has a different goal in mind, and a different path leading us to where we are today. Those past experiences and interests form professional identity. Some of us may be a more “Rogerian” CBT therapist and want to work with kids, where some of us may be more “Ellis-esque” and want to work with adults, and that is okay. Our professional identity is essentially what we bring to the table for our clients: who are we? What do we do? Who do we work best with (demographics, diagnoses, etc.)?
    Another important part of professional identity outside of personal factors would be reputation. It is important to be viewed in a professional manner by our colleagues and to the community. It is important to establish a strong reputation and professional identity early on, especially being brand new into the field. Some families may view us as young and “what does she know about helping me?” But we are all fully capable of completing effective therapy and it is a matter of showing our clients so they can see we are entirely professional and competent in this field. Professional identity in this sense is important for growing into this career.

    2) Burnout is almost inevitable in this field; it is such an emotionally taxing job. But none of us would be in it if we didn’t love it or belong here. I have about 2 years of clinical experience right now, and I can say I burn out when I feel I have too much going on. Whether it be the clients are very reliant on me, all of my clients are in crises, or even outside of work. For me, I feel I do allow myself to be too “available” at times to families, which can make me stressed. For clients, when I feel burnt out, I feel I don’t give them the best care that I could. If I am distracted or not motivated, I am thinking “I can’t wait until I am done with this kid,” not “what can we do together right now for their treatment?” and that is not fair to them or myself really. With starting my internship soon, I guess I am worried about quick burnout with balancing work, school, and internship, and outside life (living independently, etc.)
    With regards to self-care, I definitely need improvement. I take on too many tasks at once and don’t leave myself enough time to just relax. My “me” time is definitely dwindling, especially where I will be starting my internship next week, and I certainly appreciate any time I do have to myself. One of my favorite past times for alone time is just taking a drive and blasting the music and belting it out. It clears my head and I don’t think about work or school or whatever I have going on at that time. Otherwise, just spending time with my family is another go-to self-care technique. Even just sharing a meal together or hanging out to watch whatever sports game is on does wonders for the mind.
    I think it is important to use those who are close to you as a resource for self-care. Often, like I said, I find I give myself too many tasks at once, and my friends and family have to drag me away and force me to just relax for a minute, and I definitely need that.

    Reply

    • Zachary Welsh
      Jun 08, 2017 @ 23:18:00

      Stephanie, I definitely agree with your thoughts on burnout and how it can affect my work with clients. When I am burnt out, I tend to be less therapeutic and less patient with the kids at work. I feel that it is important to be aware of how I am acting towards a client and why I am feeling the way I do. Being aware of this allows me to know when I am burnt out. It also allows me to know when I need to take care of myself more. Self-care is crucial in this field and allows clinicians to better perform his or her job duties. I find that doing things that keep me in the present moment is beneficial for me. It allows me to take my mind off work for a while. Being able to take my mind off of work allows me to feel refreshed and re-energized when I go back to work.

      Reply

  7. Meagan Monteiro
    Jun 05, 2017 @ 20:34:27

    When I think of professional identity, several thoughts come to mind. I mainly think of the values that you can hold as a professional in the field. I think that professional identity is very important as it will usually guide how people conduct themselves with their clients, with other professionals and with others in the community. Professional identity includes how people differentiate themselves among other people. I think that I have indirectly thought of my professional identify, whereas I think about who I want to work with, the values that I have, what I want to achieve and how I work with my clients. On the other hand, I am hesitant when I hear the word professional, as I still feel like a student. I am not trying to say that I am not confident in my ability to work with clients, but I am also still learning, and professional sounds so official. As I am wrapping up my time as a student as Assumption, and setting off into the professional world, it will be very important to further think about my professional identity. This will set me apart from other candidates, and also impact my work with my clients. My professional identity will include my personality characteristics and my personal style in engaging with others. My professional identity will also include my theoretical background, and the populations that I have experience working with.

    Any helping professional will be faced with the issue of burnout. As a working graduate student who has just finished my internship, I am all too familiar with burnout. One thing that was really helpful was to identify the signs that I was becoming too overwhelmed, as for me it is better to catch it before I get in a funk. Situations that contribute to this is when I feel like I am not accomplishing enough, whether this be falling behind on paperwork, or getting stagnant in my work with clients. Another source of burnout is when I am working on a treatment team, and I feel that my concerns are not being heard. Another sign that I am becoming too overwhelmed is when I start to think too much about my clients when I am at home. Some ways that help me to reduce burn out are identifying priority tasks, and making a list. I do better when I dedicate some time to each task, and then move onto the next one. Another way to reduce burnout is to try to draw my attention to small victories. I primarily work with individuals with schizophrenia so progress can be slow. By focusing on subtle changes, I can refocus to why I enjoy working with my clients, and it can give me a little more energy to keep going. Another useful technique is letting myself do an activity that I enjoy once a week. This activity can be going for a walk, or a run, reading a book, or watching a television show. I am somebody that needs to do something alone to recharge sometimes. Identifying when I am starting to feel burnt out, and identifying ways to feel more energized has helped me to maintain grades, not yell at loved ones, and succeed at work and in internship. Self-care is a daily battle, but it is an important one.

    Reply

    • Marisa Molinaro
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 10:21:57

      Meagan,

      I completely agree with your statement about feeling more like a student so thinking about ourselves as professionals is difficult. I don’t think I realized until doing these readings as well as talking about professional identity in class, that I had actually started putting some thought into how I want to present myself as a professional. I feel that as time goes on and as we actually become working individuals, our professional identity will become more prominent and we will be more secure in our own identities. Additionally, I feel that burnout is a huge aspect of being a grad student! The tools that we are learning now to implement self-care as well as just balancing everything that we have going in our lives will hopefully become applicable later in life in our own careers.

      Reply

    • Zachary Welsh
      Jun 08, 2017 @ 23:25:18

      Meagan, I completely agree that it is important to be aware of the subtle changes to know when one is experiencing burnout. Noticing these subtle changes allows me to be aware of the fact that I need to do some self-care. I feel that these changes, even though they are subtle, drastically affect my work with clients. They may cause me to lose my patience and affect how I react to certain situations. I feel that if one wants to be successful in this field, self-care is a must. It not only benefits one’s work, but it also benefits other areas in one’s life. I agree that self-care is a daily battle, especially with our busy schedules, but it is crucial to success in this field.

      Reply

  8. Jackie Bradley
    Jun 05, 2017 @ 22:25:53

    1. When I think about the words “professional identity”, I imagine the way a person is viewed by their coworkers, clients, students, or anyone in their professional environment. The way a person portrays or carries himself or herself in the workplace greatly depends on a person’s values. Professional identity to me also includes a person’s skills, abilities, areas of focus, goals, and intentions. I have not thought much about professional identity before this post mostly because I have not yet reached the point of obtaining a job as a professional. I think that the process of forming a professional identity is on going as a person gains experience working in their field. That being said, professional identity is very important to me. I hope to develop a personal identity that includes being well respected, maintaining good values in my work and interactions with those in my professional environment. CBT and my training at Assumption will also be a part of my professional identity. The skills and education I will have gained by the time that I graduate will influence my work and therefor my professional identity. It is important for me to be reputable and I am confident that my time in this program will contribute to that.

    2. One of my concerns about experiencing burnout is becoming easily emotionally drained. I tend to be someone who can over empathize at times, and take other’s experiences to heart. I am well aware that I am going to hear serious things from my clients that at times may be very heavy for me afterward. I think that this may become taxing and contribute to a feeling of being burnt out. Self-care will be important to practice to help me with being emotionally drained at times. I think that self-care includes being really aware of my own feelings and the way certain sessions influence my emotionally. In doing so, I can be aware of when I need to decompress. Whether that be making a cup of tea, going to the gym, or taking a walk, I will need to take the time for myself. At times, I feel like self-care is challenging for me to fit into my schedule. Sometimes I don’t partake in self-care as soon as I should, resulting in feelings of stress and being overwhelmed. I know I am extremely busy right now, going to school, practicum, and working, and life won’t always be like this. But, I will face different scheduling issues as I progress in my career and it is important for me to always practice self-care, putting time aside for myself

    Reply

    • Marisa Molinaro
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 10:26:13

      Jackie,

      I agree that a big part of professional identity includes how our coworkers and those around us view us. It is not only important how we feel about our own morals and values internally, but also how we conduct ourselves and how the ones around us perceive us. I did not think about the fact that my training here at Assumption will also be part of my professional identity. Simply utilizing CBT and our education will definitely be a big part of our professional identity as there are so many other clinicians who practice different kind of therapies that have different goals and ideals. Additionally, I feel the same way when it comes to getting emotionally invested in our work. I spent most of my internship working with children and it is so hard to not allow yourself to get emotionally involved in their lives. Especially when you know things are going on at home that may not be ideal, or if there are issues happening at school. You take this with you even if you don’t intend to. Making sure to utilize self-care in these instances will be very important to our career and overall well-being.

      Reply

    • JULIA SHERMAN
      Jun 09, 2017 @ 21:44:36

      You make a good point about your professional identity being something that slowly develops through the course of your career. It is definitely not something that is static–it is always changing and developing as you continue to gain more experience. I imagine this will be especially true as we continue to learn from more experienced counselors and get a sense of how they view their own professional identities.

      I also like your point about the fact that we are in a CBT program, and how that should be considered a part of our professional identity. I had never thought of it that way, but the approach that we take to counseling is certainly an important part of how we view ourselves and our work. Being in a CBT program, part of our identities includes utilizing evidenced-based treatment approaches for our clients, which is definitely a part of our professional identities that I think we should be proud of. It makes me wonder how professionals who do not use evidence-based treatments–such as psychodynamic therapists–view their professional identity when they are aware that their treatment approach does not often lead to improved results.

      Reply

  9. Jacleen Charbonneau
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 00:00:57

    1. Professional identity brings to mind the idea that individuals have differing types of identities depending upon their various roles. For instance, if one is a mother/father, a friend, a husband/wife, a son/daughter, and a professional, this individual may feel differently in the role of a friend than in the role of a professional, in terms of self expectations and so on. Therefore, I think professional identity is how one identifies himself or herself as a professional, as well as how this individual feels about himself/herself as a professional. As noted, he or she may have certain self expectations within this role that will maintain this identity as a professional in whichever field he or she is active in. I, personally, think about professional identity a lot. I have always been very focused on my career goals and career path, and it is quite important to me. As I continue my schooling, I work a job in an entirely different field, and it often feels strange to switch from one field (education) to another (mental health), especially when I was working as a clinical intern and was completing both jobs within the same day. My professional identity was often changing between the two different jobs that I worked. Therefore, professional identity is something prominent in my life, and I look forward to settling into one single field for my future and continuing to grow in my professional identity within that field alone.

    2)
    Some concerns I have for self-care is that I won’t actually engage in self-care in the way that I should. Going through graduate school has proven that I often intend to engage in self care, such as proper diet, time with friends, and exercise, but self-care is somehow often left on the lower end of my priority list. I therefore am concerned that this same issue will occur when working with clients, as this field is hard work and will cause as much, if not more, stress than graduate school deadlines. I am concerned that I will refrain from purposely putting aside the time to properly engage in these acts of self care, so I think this will be something that I will have to continue making efforts for once I become comfortable in my routine.

    All in all, I have noticed a number of aspects of the mental health field that result in stress, such as client no shows (especially if the position is fee for service and I am relying on that income) and crisis intervention (such as assessing suicide & calling EMH or DCF for high-risk situations). Dealing with this stress is often an effort when fatigued from crisis situations, but it is something that I have learned to do during my internship. Engaging in laughter, whether through watching comedy shows or calling a friend, is something that seems to melt away the stress from the day. Moreover, putting one day per week aside for a “day of rest” is vital for stress reduction and recuperating for the following week. Lastly, spending some time alone at night (I am a night owl) to read a book or work on a project can provide the alone time that I need to recharge and unwind from the stress of the day.

    Reply

    • Emily Noyes
      Jun 07, 2017 @ 12:37:22

      Jacleen- I think that developing a single professional identity can be an ongoing process for anyone, but with multiple professional roles I can imagine that being a bit more challenging. I think its great that this is something that you have already put a lot of thought into. I believe that professional identity is something that will continue to to develop and evolve for each of us as we begin our careers in the mental health field.

      Reply

    • Salome Wilfred
      Jun 07, 2017 @ 13:07:23

      Jacleen,

      I struggle with the same concern of continuing to be able to set aside time for self-care. It took me nearly two years to improve in this. I finally have figured out how to engage in self-care as a graduate student but I fear I won’t be able to do effectively engage in self-care as a clinician. I feel as if the stress and demand of being a student and the stress and demand of being a clinician are very different and self-care will require a new approach.

      Reply

    • JULIA SHERMAN
      Jun 09, 2017 @ 21:51:55

      I like your point about how we tend to put aside our own basic needs, such as diet, exercise, and socializing, so that we have the time for work and graduate classes. Diet especially has been an issue for me during this program–I am awful at meal planning, and between two jobs and school, I tend to miss meals and have lost an unhealthy amount of weight in the past year. It is easy to tell ourselves that once we are done with school, we will engage in the self care that we missed out on during school. But your point that these habits could still continue once we begin working after school is a valid one. Even though school will be over, being a mental health counselor will still be a taxing career, and we will need to learn how to balance our job with our own personal needs sooner rather than later.

      Reply

  10. Jason Prior
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 04:31:11

    1)
    To me, a professional identity is just like any other schema or core belief; a way for people, including the subject, to view a professional individual. I believe a professional identity is built upon three viewpoints. First and foremost is the way the individual views them self in a professional setting. This encompasses everything from feeling confident and comfortable in a counseling position to believing that they are capable of performing the duties of their position. If someone were to believe that they did not have the proper training or education necessary for the position that they had, that will factor in to how they view them self. Also important is that the individual has a firm view of their own values as a professional. The next viewpoint to consider is the way other professionals view and react to the individual, particularly based on the behaviors of the individual. For instance, if an individual behaves in a manner that is pompous or disorganized, then others will view them as arrogant or unprofessional, and act accordingly. on the other hand, if the individual behaves in a professional and proper manner, then other professionals will view them in that way. Finally there is the clientele that the individual is treating. Like with the other professionals, the individual’s identity will be on display and reacted to. These clients will interact with the therapist and give feedback on what they experience which, in turn, will cause the individual to alter their concept of their self.

    2)
    Self-care may be the most important yet least practiced skill we have in our repertoire. Too often I or my fellow students are stressed out due to the sheer one-sided nature of the work-to-fun ratio. Sometimes it is the limited amount of time in which we have to complete a great deal of schoolwork, not to mention the demand on quality for said work. Other times it is caused by difficult clients or other problems with work/internships. I have experienced all of these myself and can attest to how much it will burn one out. In particular, I found dealing with client attrition difficult in my internship. I also discovered that I become much more withdrawn when I am experiencing burnout, which impacted my relationships with others. As such, it took my friends and girlfriend dragging me out to take my mind off of the problems. I think we should rely on each other to get through the rough times we experience. After all, who knows better the stress we face than each other?

    Reply

    • Taylor Gibson
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:58:02

      Jason,

      I completely agree with you that self-care is often a practitioners’ least practiced skill. I also agree with you that self-care was especially difficult as a graduate student. Time was such a barrier to me regularly engaging in self-care (especially during my internship period). Between working, going to school, and internship responsibilities, I often felt like the best and only self-care I was able to engage in regularly was making sure I got adequate sleep. For my colleagues and friends (at this program and others) I saw that those who attempted to do everything without making time for self-care struggled significantly more than those who cut themselves some slack. Now that my internship has ended and my schooling is coming to a close I am looking forward to engaging in more interesting means of self-care than simply getting enough sleep (although that one isn’t going anywhere either).

      Reply

  11. Salome Wilfred
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 09:35:18

    Before starting this class I never heard the term “professional identity.” And since starting this class, I feel like it is a term I have come by multiple times and was even asked this question at a job interview. I believe one’s professional identity is defined as one’s values, beliefs and therapeutic orientation and approach. My professional identity, while still developing, is one that truly values the importance of research in practice. Since college, my advisor has, and continues, to stress the importance of being a scientist in session as well as the importance of staying up to date on research. I intend to continue to use evidence based practice throughout my professional career. While I am familiar with CBT and DBT I would like to learn more about ACT to be a more versatile clinician. When I think about professional identity I also think about how I imagine myself in the professional field. I imagine myself conducting research to assist with the integration of science and practice as well as teaching these ideas to future students.

    Self-care has been something I struggle with and unfortunately, I never notice I am struggling with it until it is too late. Self-care is crucial when working in this field especially when working with “difficult to treat” populations. I also believe that young professionals are the most vulnerable to burnout due to being new to the field and very excited to work and forgetting about the importance of self-care. While self-care continues to be something I struggle with I have improved on it. Exercising really helps me when I feel stressed or overwhelmed. Therefore, I prioritize creating a schedule in which I can got to the gym for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week even if I means waking up 30 minutes earlier. Additionally, I’ve created little ways of reinforcing myself for “leaving work at work” which has also helped a lot with maintaining boundaries and creating a balance in my life.

    Reply

    • Jill Harrison
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:14:13

      Salome, I liked that you added your theoretical approach and training to your professional identity. This was not something that I had originally considered as part of mine, but after your comment I am thinking more about the importance of that educational background, training, and implementation of a specific approach. I think in terms of my own professional identity, this particular aspect could come in the form of valuing education and constantly looking to better myself as a competent clinician.

      Reply

    • Jacleen Charbonneau
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 14:47:38

      Salome,

      I like your take on burnout, mentioning that younger individuals are more likely to burn out than those who are experienced in the field. Often times people probably assume that because someone is new to the field, they automatically should not burn out becuase they haven’t been doing something long enough. However, I assume, after reading your post, that a person who works in the field will build a stronger ability to manage difficult situations without being emotionally affected because they are used to these experiences, whereas a younger professional may experience these difficulties unexpectedly and not have access to proper coping resources to deal with them effectively.

      Reply

  12. Marisa Molinaro
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 10:17:42

    1. Before taking this class, I had not really considered how I view my own “professional identity”. However, since discussing this in class as well as in the readings I feel like this is an important aspect to consider when entering the professional world. I think that professional identity encompasses one’s own values and morals that serve as a compass for the way one presents themselves in the workplace. I also think that the way we work with and interact with others plays a role in our professional identity. How we present ourselves both in the office and outside of the office is extremely important. I think that professional identity is very important and that making sure you understand who you are as a clinician will assist you in making sure you are following the path you wish to. I assume that as we move into our actual careers and start to build a life for ourselves, our professional identity will become more prominent and more developed.

    2. Before starting my internship I had never really believed that self-care was going to be something that I would need to stress in my life. However, I realized very fast that taking care of yourself is just as important as making sure you get all of our other responsibilities done. I feel that my biggest issue with self-care is being honest with myself when I really do need a break and not putting so much on my own plate. I also have an issue with leaving work “at work” and because I want to work with children I feel that this may become an issue down the line. If I get some tough cases and I bring the information that was shared with me home with me and ruminate on it, this may lead to faster burn out. I need to make sure that I am honest with myself when I do need a break or that I speak with a supervisor or a colleague when cases that are very difficult stick with me. Having a good work/life balance is extremely important, especially in this line of work.

    Reply

    • Jill Harrison
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:10:15

      Marisa, I liked your comment about the difficulty of leaving work at work, especially when working with children. I have also found this to be difficult working with adolescents. Though many of the adolescents I work with have made poor decisions that lead to them being involved with my agency, I often find that they have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect from their caregivers, which makes me think that this is really not their fault and that they are the product of their environment. I think that sometimes we tend to empathize more with kids and the challenges they are facing (not that we don’t with adults!), which makes us ruminate and try to process the situation more, even at home. I think its really important that we stay mindful of those situations and do everything we can to seek supervision or compartmentalize work and home life.

      Reply

    • Emily Noyes
      Jun 07, 2017 @ 12:33:21

      Marisa- I felt that self care wasn’t something I really paid attention to until going through my internship. Working with any type of client can bring its own challenges, but working with children can be particularly stressful for a number of reasons. I think that I too need to work on being honest with myself and speaking up when I feel as though I am overwhelmed or stressed out. I tend to tell myself in these situations that it is part of the job and I need to “deal with it”, but self care is something that can be equally as important if you want to be successful in your career.

      Reply

      • mjoyceac
        Jun 07, 2017 @ 21:24:06

        Emily,

        You really make a good point about the “deal with it” mentality, which is especially prevalent in inpatient settings. The first inpatient setting I worked in was very attuned to both client and staff needs, within the constraints of the program, and emphasized self-care after difficult days. For example, after a day where a staff member was involved in a particularly difficult restraint or interaction with a client, they would be allowed to take space and realign for 30 min before coming back. Inpatient settings are so unique considering the emphasis is on treating the clients’ trauma, when the staff can often times be subjected to a different form of trauma. As you, many of our classmates, and I have seen firsthand, some of the interactions or events on the unit can be horrifying and are often left unaddressed afterwards. While I think it is important for us to follow self-care principles, I think that it is even more important for a company to work towards helping us with that self-care.

        Reply

  13. Mark Joyce
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 11:40:06

    To be honest, my professional identity was not something I had ever specifically thought about before being prompted to here. I had always carried myself in a professional manner during work and my internship, but I hadn’t put much thought towards the idea of what my identity actually was. In many ways, the professional approach I embodied captures my professional identity or characteristics of that identity. For instance, I had always grounded myself in a Rogerian approach when working with difficult populations in residential settings, and that approach has really been solidified in my identity as a counselor. I had always seen myself as being approachable and over the course of my internship I found that my approachable nature served me well when working in an elementary school setting. Another key component to my professional identity is a continuing thirst for knowledge, as I really enjoy learning new concepts and see myself attending various conferences, workshops, and classes well beyond the CEU requirements of our license. I know it seems like we’ve been in school forever, but I am a firm believer of continuing to push myself to learn new or refine my own approaches through further education. Brittany made an excellent point with saying that CBT is now part of her professional identity and I wholeheartedly agree. I think the CBT approach is so engrained in my identity that I can only see myself working in environments that emphasize evidence based practices. The intersection of my identities allows me to engage with a variety of clients and going forward my identity will likely receive a higher emphasis.

    Having worked in the field for a little while, I have a good first hand grasp on the concept of burnout and what steps I need to take to ensure my well-being. I think one of the most difficult perceptions of mine that I’ve had to work on after transitioning from inpatient to outpatient is holding myself responsible for a client’s wellbeing. Residential work is defined by ensuring client wellbeing over the course of the week and I found myself in that very same mindset working outpatient. I restructured my approach to emphasize the work the client and myself would do in session, while relieving myself of any responsibility between sessions. That’s not to say I am shirking all of my responsibilities, but rather holding myself and the client to more realistic expectations of who is responsible for their wellbeing. Luckily, I have found some great self-care activities that can lessen the immense load we sometimes face. They most center around gardening and spending time with my dog. I’ve often talked with client’s about mindfulness and I have found being mindful while gardening and walking Monte to be very relaxing and allows me to refocus the next time I tackle I task.

    Reply

    • cpopores
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 13:47:17

      Mark,

      I think I understand what you mean about the differences in inpatient and outpatient settings. I think you’re right in shifting your focus and not placing all responsibility on yourself–which would quickly create burnout. In a residential setting, at the very least, we know that the individuals we work with will be monitored throughout the week and will have help in any emergency. Many times, we are not the only ones providing treatment to individuals in inpatient and residential settings. Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t care or shouldn’t take precautions to protect our clients, but we have a lot less to worry about. In an outpatient setting, I can imagine it would be very easy to feel the weight on your shoulders as clients walk out of the door. We don’t have anyone reporting details about their behavior, we have no control in their environment–it’s all completely out of our hands. If we had made the decision that a client is safe to leave and something happens, we could be held liable. If clients don’t show up for appointments, we can’t show up at their house and knock on their bedroom door until they wake up. All in all, I can imagine there’s an initial adjustment period when making that transition.

      Reply

      • mjoyceac
        Jun 07, 2017 @ 21:16:57

        Colleen,

        You definitely make a good point in that clients in inpatient settings are at least monitored. I also think part of my burnout most recently was tied in to case management, which upon reflection may have been more draining due to perceptions of responsibility. The client that I had worked with was homeless and living in her car for some time, and luckily acquired housing that she actively tried to leave and subvert. This one client was very draining because I had placed such a large emphasis or brought home my concerns about her maintaining housing. As you say, it’s not that I stopped caring, but I restructured my approach to reduce my perceived burden or responsibility to actions I cannot control. All that we can do as therapists is do our best in conducting sessions and creating assessments or treatment plans, and the rest is on the client!

        Reply

    • Jason Prior
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 18:21:22

      Mark,
      I really appreciated where you differentiated between the expectations for inpatient and outpatient clients. That is a problem that I experienced in making that transition. This really is a case where you have no control over the client’s behavior once they leave a session.

      Reply

  14. Jill Harrison
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 11:59:22

    When thinking about my own professional identity, I believe that it consists of the values that I prioritize in my career. This is something that I have thought about in the past, but not necessarily in the context of counseling. My family owns a small business in the hospitality industry, so having role models to set the example of professional values that help make you successful was helpful in forming my own professional identity. Aspects such as how we interact with our clients, co-workers, and even ourselves are all important pieces of our professional identity. Specific values such as honesty, empathy, integrity, empathy, dedication, strong work ethic, organization, and ethical decision-making are all important in how I interact with others in my career and how I conduct myself both in and out of the workplace. Forming a professional identity and reflecting on those specific values is really important for a few different reasons. One reason is that you need to make sure you understand yourself on a level that allows you to help others understand themselves and be successful in that venture. Another reason is that you need to make sure that you are choosing an agency or career path that matches those values. For example, if being organized is an important part of your professional integrity, and you find that your supervisor is extremely unorganized, you may find it hard to maintain that value that makes you successful at that particular agency. Your professional identity can also change and adapt over time as you develop into a more competent and experienced clinician or as you move and shift to different areas in the field.

    Self-care is very important to me because I have a fear of becoming burnt out. I also have a perfectionist attitude when it comes to most things, which makes me more vulnerable to stress and anxiety when things become difficult. I have already experienced some feelings of burn out with the current population I work with (adolescent boys aren’t the easiest!) but I do everything I can to make sure that I’m in a good place myself so that I can best help them get to a good place. I make sure that if I am getting frustrated or stressed at work, I take 5 minutes to do deep breathing and compose myself in the moment. I also do my best to compartmentalize work and personal life. I try to leave work at work, and focus on my friends, family, and things I enjoy when I am not on the clock. Even if I do receive a phone call or email while I’m not working, as long as it does not need my immediate attention, I will leave it for the next day or after the weekend is over. I think that the key to self-care is that compartmentalization, which is usually more mentally difficult than anything; it’s easy to leave paperwork at the office or shut off your work phone, but allowing yourself to not worry or feel guilty about taking time for yourself is the more challenging aspect to learn and maintain.

    Reply

    • Taylor Gibson
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:47:15

      Jill,

      What you said about professional identity changing over time resonated with me. I think that the professional identity I would have reflected on when I first started my internship is different from the professional identity that I think is more representative of me at this moment. These identities may be drastically different from my understanding of myself as a professional 10 or 20 years into my career. I hope that the values that I hold in time remain somewhat consistent while also recognizing that the importance of certain values may increase or decrease over different seasons of my career. I agree with you that taking time to reflect upon our values is very important to understanding how those values inform our professional identity.

      Reply

    • Jackie Bradley
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 23:13:23

      Jill,
      I can greatly relate to your worries of how being a perfectionist may contribute to the anxiety, stress, and feelings of burnout that come with this job. I myself am quite a perfectionist, and when things don’t go as I planned or hoped for I tend to become easily stressed. I didn’t really consider how me being a perfectionist would contribute to feelings of burnout throughout my career. I think that this is something that I need to be much more aware of in the moment, and I need to work on not caring so much to the extent that I do. I hold myself to very high standards and I know that some days will end in ways in which I am not pleased with. This is part of the job and I need to remember that!

      Reply

  15. cpopores
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:24:09

    (1) When you hear the words “professional identity,” what comes to mind? Is this something you have ever thought about before? Is this important to you?

    When thinking about professional identity, a person’s values, beliefs, interests, knowledge/competencies, and conduct come to mind. A professional’s values and beliefs influence how they carry out their professional duties and can shape who they are as a professional. For example, if a person places importance on using evidence-based practices, they are more likely to use it. However, a person can believe in the use of evidence-based practices but not implement them. This may be because they did not receive an adequate education, or that they fail to seek out information and stay up-to-date on research and advancements in the field. For example, some professionals may adopt a new treatment method without ensuring they have enough training and supervision or may believe that they are competent using certain methods because they had a class in it, but actually lack the skills and knowledge needed to do it correctly. In addition, when professionals maintain an interest in learning about their profession, actively work to increase their professional competence, and seek adequate supervision and feedback, their professional identity may change or strengthen over time. Likewise, people who hold the opposite values and beliefs may never think or care about their professional identity. I also think that a person’s actions and conduct play an important role in professional identity. For example, a person may think they follow or want to follow ethical guidelines, but if they act in unethical ways, their beliefs don’t really mean much.

    (2) What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients (e.g., What might/does get you stressed? Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress?)?

    In my experience, much of my burnout or frustration has come from staff or other coworkers. I think it is important for me to be mindful of this, and act to reduce my stress early on. I believe that sometimes burnout, no matter what the source, often calls for a change in expectations. For example, perhaps I became stressed with staff members because I expected them to implement something in the same speed and manner that I would have, which led to overgeneralizations and frustration on my part. I may even then act in ways that make the situation worse, and people might not want to listen to me. It can be helpful to take a step back and think about what my priorities and objectives are, and how they can be accomplished. Often, I realize that I assume people understand things in the same way that I do, or I underestimate obstacles others face. Although I haven’t had much experience with this when it comes to clients, I can see how I could possibly experience burnout when I expect my client to improve, change their thinking, etc. when they aren’t on the same page as I am. Sometimes this is because individuals aren’t in an action stage of change, their goals have changed, or there is a lapse in communication and understanding between us.

    Sometimes, burnout is just a combination of life stressors. As a mother of two children, self-care is usually an afterthought. “Mom-guilt” also usually rears its head if I try to do something for myself. Yes, I know that I can be a better mom if I take care of myself. It’s just so hard to fit in! On the other hand, sometimes cuddling up with my girls and reading a story is a form of self-care on its own. Exercise is often one of the recommendations when we talk about self-care, and it sometimes gets old to hear it. However, recently I have paid more attention to my mood, attention, and self-regulation. I can see a clear difference between the days I was able to exercise and those I wasn’t. I am much more stressed and impatient when I haven’t gotten some kind of exercise. My current goals include walking my dog at a brisk pace for at least a mile a day (she has arthritis, so I’m also trying not to push her too hard). Of course, my daughters get very upset with me when I take a walk without them, but it’s 100% less stressful when I can listen to music, walk on my own, and not keep yelling at a 3-year-old to stay at the side of the road and stop running so far ahead while having an angry toddler on my back or in a stroller actively trying to break free because she’d like to run in the road too (Luckily, we live on a fairly quiet street). I have also started trying to go to bed at the same time as my girls and wake up at least an hour before them. This is REALLY hard because if I open my eyes, the younger one knows it and starts crying. However, when I can get up before them, I have some time to myself and my whole day is less stressful because I was able to take a shower, get dressed, eat, or read by myself. It sounds silly, but it makes a world of difference.

    Reply

    • Meagan Monteiro
      Jun 07, 2017 @ 21:57:50

      Colleen,

      As we have discussed in great detail, staff can greatly contribute to burn out. I really liked how you summed up all the factors that go to it. I usually hold other people to the same standards that I hold myself at work, which can lead to me being frustrated when people do not do as much as I would hope. I like how you mentioned that you try to be mindful that others may not think as we do, or may not have had the same experiences with our clients. This came up a lot for me. I would get to know people more personally in therapy-which build more compassion for them, and I would not get to always see the problematic behaviors that staff get to see. I think my burn out could be reduced if I try to meet staff where they are at.

      Also do not feel guilty for taking walks! You are an awesome mom!

      Reply

    • Janean Desjardins
      Jun 08, 2017 @ 00:34:14

      Colleen,
      I think you make a great point about burning out when you having high expectations for others and they don’t meet those standards that we hold for ourselves. We often expect others to just plain do their job and a “normal” manner and it’s completely frustrating when you have to turn around and pick up the slack of someone else when you are already overhauling because that is the type of person that you are. I totally get it. You obviously know me and some of my work ethic that I can’t say no and I’ll put myself into a job whole heatedly even if its something I don’t want because at the end of the day it’s about the clients, patients, or people that we are working for. However, people like us will burn out a whole hell of a lot faster by being the ones that do for everyone while the slackers sit back and that’s wicked frustrating. I’m glad that you can look at your girl’s as a stress relief and snuggle up with them. They are small for only a short amount of time, but don’t have mom guilt and enjoy a small pamper yourself chunk of time once in a while!

      Reply

  16. Taylor Gibson
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:40:16

    1) I don’t think that the terminology of “professional identity” is one that I have given alot of thought to. Having said that, I believe professional identify, as many of my classmates have noted, is a melding of my professional training and my values as a professional. I have spent a great deal of time prior to this class thinking about how I can support my clients most effectively and how I can best help myself to become a competent therapist and I think that these are indicative of my primary values as a professional. I regularly find myself taking steps to expand my knowledge and skills when I encounter new circumstances that I am unfamiliar with. I have found during the course of my internship and my fledgling career that I am constantly balancing my attempts to be flexible and build my ability to work “on my toes” while also acknowledging that I need additional support from other people. Being cognizant of the balance between tackling foreign situations on my own and asking for help and support, has helped me immensely in becoming a more competent therapist. In regards to my value of supporting my clients as best I can, I think this is a pretty common value among those in a helping field and what makes our career choice special. I have needed to practice during the course of my internship, regularly (often minute-to-minute during difficult sessions) taking account of what skills and techniques I possess that my clients can benefit from. Working primarily with children, I’ve found that I may have a intensely therapeutic session planned only to discover last minute that my plan is not how I can best serve my client in that moment.

    2) The act of supporting my clients is often exhausting and I have been so fortunate to have teachers and supervisors who have stressed the importance of self-care. I feel most burnt out when I am isolated in a case. I fortunately have not encountered this too often but I have found that when I am a family’s only provider (I love CBHI wraparound teams) that I have an exceptionally difficult time maintaining myself. The best way to support myself when I’m feeling isolated is to reach out to my colleagues for help and consult. As beneficial as supervision is, we often need support from other people on a very regular basis rather than just once a week. In general, I am very strict with myself about turning off my work phone after I leave my last clients’ home and not working on the weekends. My only exception being, that I have found using Sunday afternoons and evenings to catch up on my documentation often takes a lot of the stress of my 5pm Monday documentation deadline off of my shoulders. Finally, the absolute best lesson in self care that I’ve learned since starting my career is this: When I’m sick, I actually give myself the day off rather than trying to work from home. As an intern, I once attempted to work while I was sick and I was no use to my clients or my agency and succeeded only in tiring myself out more and slowing my recovery time. Self-care is about listening to your body and emotions and acting accordingly.

    Reply

  17. Julia Sherman
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 12:55:44

    I don’t think I have ever consciously thought about my professional identity, but I think on a subconscious level it is something that I have been trying to develop through the course of my career as a mental health professional. To me, my professional identity means acting in a way that is ethical and client-focused. Throughout my work as a residential counselor and as a school counselor, I have frequently had to make hard decisions based off of my professional identity, including instances in residential in which I have needed to report co-workers for abusive/neglectful behavior toward clients. Such decisions are difficult to make, as it comes with the knowledge that the coworker could be terminated from the company. However, everything that we do should be based only on the clients and their needs. In many cases, we are the only people there to advocate for them. If we do not take action when there is an ethical issue, they have no one to truly look out for them. And although such situations often come with difficult decisions, those decisions are what help you become proud of your identity as a mental health professional.

    I think we have all experienced instances when we have become truly stressed from working with a client. For me, as I’m sure is true for most people, I can become stressed when working with disruptive and oppositional clients. From my experiences, such clients behave in a way that school has just not really prepared us for in counseling. They don’t want to talk about their feelings, or their thoughts, or their behaviors, and they often refuse coping skills unless it’s a skill that you DON’T want them to use. Working in school counseling as I do now, I have worked with a lot of clients like this, so it’s becoming much easier not to let myself get stressed out. I make sure to tell myself something along the lines of, “If you get stressed out, he/she will be able to tell, and they’ll feel encouraged to keep doing it.” I also make sure to work against my stress by using calm body language and a low, even tone. Usually, this will help the child calm down a little bit and will relieve some of my stress as well. When the stress becomes overwhelming, I’ve found that it can be very helpful to talk to coworkers about the stressful situation. No one will know better what you’re going through than your coworkers, and it also eliminates any HIPAA issues that could arise from talking about your issues with a family member or friend. However, I don’t expect that I will have many issues with burnout in the long run. At the moment, I am working two jobs (residential counselor and school counselor), and work around 65 hours a week. Ideally, once I am done with school, I will be working only as a school counselor, which is a relatively low-stress job (regular hours, no on-call duties, holidays/summers off, etc.)

    Reply

    • Janean Desjardins
      Jun 08, 2017 @ 00:44:40

      Julia,
      I’m jealous of all the summer time off you will have and the school vacations… you definitely thought ahead! 🙂 I completely understand what you mean when trying to tell yourself not to show your frustration and talk yourself through it in front of the kids. I do this in the after school and summer program constantly. The program was once just an after school program, but has now turned into more troubled kids with lots of mixed disorders mainly ADHD, ODD, autism, and some comorbid complex trauma cases. Combining that into a confined area right out of school after they have been cooped up for hours in pure insanity. I’m more worn out after that than 10 sessions back to back. Taking a step out, talking to co-workers, and talking myself off the ledge of it making it worse for the kids though is very accurate. I definitely agree with you on that point.

      Reply

  18. Janean Desjardins
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 13:42:43

    (1) When you hear the words “professional identity,” what comes to mind? Is this something you have ever thought about before? Is this important to you?

    When I think about professional identity I believe that it encompasses one’s core values and beliefs we incorporate into our professional practice. Core values and beliefs are caring, showing empathy, having basic moral, ethics, respect, dignity, and diversity in your practice. As a good professional these are values that just do not turn off at night or when we walk out the door at the end of the day. These are values that will continue into different parts of our lives. In this profession we have all joined to help people no matter what direction of the field we are going in. Over time I feel as though different things change and we incorporate different parts of our professional identity in. In my previous job I definitely had my core values, but some of them were a little different. I of course showed patients with cancer or a patient that just lost a baby empathy and used basic moral code that most any would. Now entering back into the mental health field again I feel as though some of the same skills that I used in my previous job do overlap and can be used cross professionally. I believe that your behavior and the way that you treat and present yourself to clients, as well as agencies define your reputation as a professional. If you present yourself as professional, act professional, work in a professional manner you will gain the respect from those around you. Going beyond just the core values and beliefs it is important to be involved in your agency that you work at beyond just the clients you see and be involved in the mental health community. This will also align you with other professionals and connection that can keep you up to date within the field.

    (2) What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients (e.g., What might/does get you stressed? Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress?)

    My biggest concern about burnout is that I have a hard time saying no! I will take on client after client when my case load is full and I did this throughout my entire internship. This was completely overwhelming, but a learning curve that I’m still trying to learn from! I can often take on too much and feel like everything is crazy, but at the same time I feel like I function better that way. Its like a double edge sword. The clients that I have though are not easy and often have trauma and are complicated case. Learning to not take this home took a long time to get used to. I have learned to not do this, but listening to trauma stories and dealing with difficult cases takes a toll. I have learned to just listen to myself and know when I need to take a step back. When I have a day off, instead of being go, go, go on that day I will do something for myself or spend time with family. At night so I can sleep better I have an oil diffuser and I put on a sound machine to help relax me at night.

    Reply

    • cpopores
      Jun 06, 2017 @ 14:00:53

      Janean,

      I appreciate the way you describe professional identity. I agree that some parts of our professional identity are specific to different fields, while others are more universal. Also, I think that there are certain characteristics can be applied to various situations, roles, or careers. For example, a person who has strong work ethic and places importance on ethics probably wouldn’t change their beliefs because they made a career change. No matter the job, some people’s core beliefs and values will shape their professional identity for better or worse. They can also influence how they approach their career choices, education, and professional development.

      Reply

  19. Zachary Welsh
    Jun 06, 2017 @ 19:16:14

    When I hear the words “professional identity” I first think of the morals and values that I have when I am in the workplace. The morals and values are similar to my personal identity and determine how I act and carry myself in the workplace. These personal morals and values should be similar with the workplace’s values to create a good fit in my profession. Having certain values in common with coworkers may make the job easier and more fulfilling. These personal morals and values guide me in how I conduct my job duties. Having these values in common with others I work with will also allow me to accept help and supervision from my supervisors. Certain values that come to mind are honesty, adaptability, positive attitude, confidence, and dependability. These values ensure my success in the workplace and guide me in the decisions I must make. Another thing that comes to mind when thinking about professional identity is the type of training I receive. Since Assumption focusses on CBT, I consider myself a part of this approach to therapy. This will be something I use in my profession and will also guide me in how I conduct my job duties and will shape my professional identity. Professional identity is something I have not really thought about before. It is something that is very important though and having a professional identity will allow me to succeed in my career.
    One of my worries in this profession is burnout. Jobs in this field tend to have a high turnover rate and I am worried that this will happen to me. I have experienced burnout in my current job working on an inpatient unit with children. Experiencing burnout causes me to be less therapeutic with the kids and affects how I perform my job duties. There are certain things that I can do to prevent burnout, however. Taking vacations and “mental health days” allows me to relax and concentrate on other things besides work. It is also important to learn how to leave things at the door when I walk out of the workplace. Constantly worrying and thinking about work can quickly lead to burnout. This is one skill I struggle with and mastering it will definitely help me in my career as a therapist. Utilizing certain self-care practices will allow me to experience less burnout and be more therapeutic to my clients. These self-care practices will ensure that I am doing my job well and make it more fulfilling.

    Reply

  20. Emily Noyes
    Jun 07, 2017 @ 10:16:21

    1.) My professional identity is something that I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to in the past, however, as graduation is approaching it is something that I have began to ponder. I view professional identity as how one carries themselves in their profession, and their values they hold as a mental health professional. Although I haven’t thought in too much detail as to what my professional identity is, I began to slowly piece it together throughout my experience at my internship. My placement at my internship was the first job in my field where I held the most responsibilities. In doing so, I began to realize my role as a professional in my field and began to piece together what it means to be a mental health counselor. I believe that this identity will continue to develop and evolve as I enter the field and begin to find my place. My professional identity is something that is very important to me. Although I am new to my role as a mental health counselor, I believe that as I spend more time in my field that I will begin to understand and learn what I value and what things are important to me in this aspect. As I see from other student’s posts, it is clear that a lot of us are unsure of what exactly our own identities are. I think that experience is something that is important in developing this meaning, and is one of the reasons why I don’t have an exact answer to what is my professional identity at this point in time.

    2.) From my limited experience as a mental health counselor, I have found that burnout and stress is something that comes up quite a bit in my work. Some things that get me stressed out is when I am working with clients who are resistant and don’t want to talk or try anything that you suggest. Weeks after weeks of this behavior begin to take a toll on me, and then I begin to ask myself if I am doing something wrong. It is frustrating and also discouraging when you give something your all and don’t see much progress. Working with clients and building rapport takes time, and with some it will take longer than others, but this does not make that feeling go away. In the past I have used my supervisor to express these concerns to, but a once a week meeting was not nearly enough to help me with all the issues that I sometimes faced throughout the whole week. During my internship I would often chat with the program clinician and other long-term employees there who had experience and insight that had served as helpful. Sometimes I could leave the stress of the day at the door and it would not follow me home. Other times, that was not so easy to do. I struggled with this at times, and tried to find ways on my own on how to cope with this stress. I found that trying to get all of my paperwork done on time and leaving little to do outside of work would often help me leave my stressful days at the door once the workday was done. I think that this is a learning process, and that dealing with burnout and stress is something that we will learn to deal and cope with in more effective ways. Although stress is something that is always going to be apart of anyone’s job, and we may not always be able to find a solution for every problem, it is important to find effective means for dealing with stressful situations in the future. Like my professional identity, I believe that stress management is something that is a learning process and will continue to develop as my experience in this field continues to grow over time.

    Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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