Topics 3 & 4: Self-Care & Professional Development {6/16}

Based on the readings due this week consider the following discussion points: (1) What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients – What might/does get you stressed? (2) Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress? (3) Your professional development and personal growth does not end once you graduate.  What are your thoughts about the best way you can assure that you are continually developing and maintaining your counseling competency?

 

Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 6/16.  Post your two replies no later than 6/18.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

42 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne Marie Lemieux
    Jun 13, 2022 @ 21:42:41

    I am genuinely concerned about burnout as I know that one can not provide quality care when they are burnt out. Giving genuine empathy and providing good quality care at times can feel very draining. Compassion fatigue is a real thing and it is impossible to provide good therapy while experiencing it. It can also potentially impact one’s health if not monitored and circumvented. I experienced burnout in the fall due to organizational demands, lack of self-care, and personal responsibilities. It was a long road to get me back to feeling energized and well. It was only through first being honest with myself and then my supervisor that changes could occur. In addition, I began practicing healthier eating, exercise, and sleep habits. I also started getting massages. I started regularly meditating and started therapy. It took major lifestyle changes to feel revitalized. Having experienced burnout first hand I feel I am better able to recognize warning signs sooner in the future. In addition, I know what lifestyle habits I need to maintain to avoid getting burned out again.

    Reply

    • Maya Lopez
      Jun 14, 2022 @ 11:07:20

      Hi Anne Marie,

      I agree, once quantity rises quality tends to decrease so if we are spreading ourselves too thin whether that be emotionally, caseload, to time-wise, it will be out patents who suffer when we aren’t able to provide quality care they deserve. Also you pointed out a great point: getting on a regular sleep cycle. This is something I have struggled with for my whole life but when I am able to get a regular one down it makes a HUGE difference in my overall mood and alertness! Definitely a self-care piece that is often left out.

      Reply

    • Anna Lindgren
      Jun 14, 2022 @ 11:31:27

      Hi Anne Marie!

      I am glad to hear that you were able to find self care methods that worked for you to ease your burnout. I also started feeling pretty burnt out last fall and winter while at my internship. It is such a difficult thing to first recognize and then make changes to pull yourself out of it. I’ve been wanting to get more regular massages as part of my self care, so if you have any recommendations, please let me know!

      See you in class!
      Anna

      Reply

    • Abby Robinson
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 17:18:51

      Hi Anne Marie!

      I’m glad you shared your experience with burnout this past year. I remember my supervisor at my internship always telling me “burnout is long term”. Which I didn’t really realize until I experienced it myself! I think that is why preventative self care is important so that over time, we don’t experience burnout because it will take a while to get back to feeling whole again.
      See you in class!

      Reply

  2. Maya Lopez
    Jun 14, 2022 @ 11:03:29

    Some concerns I have for burn out is having too much administrative work to get done along with the other progress notes and paperwork my clients need done. Case work stresses me out because we were not exactly trained on how to manage this and I feel like it is more of a social workers job. Of course paperwork is going to be seen in a counselors responsibilities however at my internship I had piles of paperwork that always needed to be done and it took my attention and time away from my clients and their needs! This will quickly lead to my feelings of burn out because it feels like I am on a perpetual paperwork hamster wheel.
    My best way to deal with stress is to communicate my needs set boundaries, hang out with friends, and bake! I also find exercising is very helpful for relieving my stress.
    I think I am a person who has always valued personal growth and plan to find a therapist of my own once I begin work to ease my transition as well we to help push myself to grow as an individual. Supervision also seems like a great way to maintain and continue to expand my competency in the field and my cases. I also plan to re-read a lot of my textbooks now that I will have more time on my hands to continue learning more in areas I need refreshing on such as with DBT.

    Reply

    • Anna Lindgren
      Jun 14, 2022 @ 11:41:19

      Hi Maya!

      I totally empathize with the feeling of being on the “paperwork hamster wheel” and feeling bogged down by case management tasks. At my internship, at times I was trying to help clients with fuel assistance or DMH applications and felt totally out of my depth. I am glad that I learned a bit about those though because I think it will come in handy when helping clients find resources in the future. I’ve also been thinking about starting to see a therapist soon. Having this big life event of graduating and starting our careers is definitely a transition and may bring some anxieties (I know it does for me!) so having someone to process that with would be beneficial. See you in class!

      Reply

    • Yen Pham
      Jun 14, 2022 @ 15:01:38

      Hi Maya,

      I completely agree with you that the best way to reduce stress in life is a balance between work and leisure, between work and social life. Yes, many times we have more motivation and positive energy to work after we chat with friends, and of course, we will also have many benefits when creating a fitness plan for ourselves.

      Reply

    • Anne Marie Lemieux
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 10:48:56

      Hi Maya, I connected to your comment about paperwork becoming cumbersome. It is by far my least favorite thing. I have found to do lists that are prioritized by importance and that include a deadline have been helpful for me. I also like that you noted the importance of boundaries. “Personal limits” has been my new expression and the importance of recognizing what yours are is invaluable. Having a supervisor that you like and feel that you can connect and learn from is the greatest strength against burn out in my opinion.

      Reply

    • Tayler Weathers
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 13:19:38

      Hi Maya! Having an individual therapist is a GREAT way to keep up self-care! Not only does it help to have another informed person on the case with you, but having to set aside an hour (or 50 mins, whatever) to talk about yourself each week is super helpful for me. It can be easy to just schedule and prioritize other things and let that lapse. I also love your idea to re-read your textbooks. I wonder what you’ll find now that we’ve almost finished the program – what will stand out that didn’t before? What will be like “omg I totally forgot about that, that’s great!”?

      Reply

  3. Yen Pham
    Jun 14, 2022 @ 14:52:41

    1. What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients – What might/does get you stressed?

    Concerning for burnout
    I think, before addressing self-care, it is important to first define burnout. I believe that burnout is a concern for not only my own mental health and well-being but also for the organizations I work for and the clients I serve. For example, experiencing burnout can result in having off-putting behaviors with my colleagues, reduced efficiency in paperwork/deadlines, and irreparably damaging therapeutic client relationships. Besides, I am also concerned about burnout’s impact on my psychological, behavior, and physical. Psychological, I may concern if I feel irritability, depression, boredom, and unmotivated/lack of purpose. On behavioral, I may act as a person of procrastination, recklessness, withdrawal,
    loneliness/isolation, minimal patience with clients, sedentary/passive activities, and poor boundaries (work/personal). On physical, I may be concerned about my poor sleep, headaches, and muscle aches (e.g., back/neck).

    Concerning for self-care
    I will regard my lifestyle as physical and spiritual. Physical self-care, such as sleeping well, eating healthy, and exercising well. Spiritual self-care, such as meditation, yoga, and religious life. I then will pay attention to my personal traits (e.g.., perfectionistic tendencies, poor personal boundaries, minimal humor)

    Causes of my stress
    I believe that any job has its own unique pressures. For me, when the stress occurs is when my lifestyle habits have not been adjusted. For example, when I work too much, not much relaxation. I have little to no (outside) activities. I also am minimal exercise, minimal socializing, and minimal interests beyond counseling. I also am not getting enough sleep and taking on too many responsibilities.

    2. Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress?

    To reduce my stress in life, I will focus on some self-care strategies. Specifically, I will focus on the physical needs of my body, including proper exercise, diet, and sleep. Because, taking care of my body is obviously important for having an active and healthy mind, including overall psychological well-being. Being physically active, eating healthy, and proper sleep hygiene all greatly contribute to high energy levels and build resilience in the face of life and job stressors. Besides, physical activities provide me an opportunity to do something nonverbal. Providing myself some silent time allows for calming down and being meditative. Or it can be an opportunity for processing recent events at the end of the day or mentally preparing for the upcoming events of the day.

    To be more successful with my physical needs, I set realistic goals, just as I do with my clients. For example, my goal is on walking around the campus for at least 30 minutes three days a week. I then create and track my exercise in my weekly schedule that I call self- monitoring. I will eat well by keeping good eating habits such as avoiding missing or skipping meals (breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day), reducing eating fast food (high in fat, carbohydrates, and processed), and too much reliance on caffeinated beverages. To sleep well, I will try to keep constantly the quality and quantity of my sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time, and just going to bed when I really want to sleep.

    (3) Your professional development and personal growth do not end once you graduate. What are your thoughts about the best way you can assure that you are continually developing and maintaining your counseling competency?

    To maintain my counseling competence after my graduation, firstly I will do my best to keep up with the shifts in the field and maintain competence, including modern evidence-based practice. I will stay up to date with the literature by reading an occasional peer-reviewed article, edited book, or evidence-based treatment manual. I will remind myself of the importance of staying up to date with effective practice by picking just one or two journals specific to my expertise and selecting articles most relevant to my current practice. I then will read some books because many practice-specific books are also available that integrate science and practice while still being easy to read and understand. Sometimes having a reading group (e.g., one article/book a month) can increase motivation and insight.

    Moreover, what will be especially important in my career development is attending conferences and participating in pieces of training, including continuing education units (CEUs), which are required by licensure boards to maintain an active license. The established requirements for CEUs essentially ensure that mental health counselors at the very least attend training on relevant topics related to practice.

    Reply

    • Connor Belland
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 19:25:50

      Hi Yen, I really like your definition of what burnout is, it really helps put what the term really looks like into perspective. I also procrastinate my notes and such a lot when I am burnt out or feeling overwhelmed. I like your idea of giving yourself small goals to try and achieve throughout your day to feel a sense of accomplishment everyday even if you aren’t feeling it with your clients.

      Reply

  4. Elizabeth Baker
    Jun 14, 2022 @ 16:36:01

    1) Some of my concerns are not having the energy to engage in self-care activities and not being able to truly sit down and relax / engage in self-care/totally work-separate activities. I have a hard time quieting work-related thoughts like, “What can I do next with my client?” “I should look at some research” “I could be using this time to do some research.” I struggled with this during my internship but had always been on top of my paperwork and client sessions. However, I fear that it will be MUCH more difficult to control these thoughts with a larger and more intense caseload. I know that I will have to be much more organized and time-oriented to avoid work-related stress during downtime, but I do fear that even when I try relaxing, this stress will return during bedtime.
    A personal concern is trying to de-stress with friends (and/or co-workers), but client and work stress is THE topic of discussion. This happened several times throughout my internship experience, and although it is helpful to discuss work-related stress, the conversation would just continue in a complaining manner. I 100% understand needing space to vent, but this happened on almost all social occasions without respecting both subtle and obvious hints of changing the topic. I walked away even more tense afterward.

    2) I do believe I have various options to help me de-stress using both social and hermit activities, but I do question if they are that effective and if they will remain effective. I question this due to the strength of my stress affecting my ability to completely enjoy these activities. However, I think creative writing is one of my favorite de-stressing activities as it allows me to enter my fantasy world or turn my stress into a crazy fictional story.

    3) I think the best way to continue strengthening my professional development is to search for workshops and webinars, request literature or resources from my supervisor and staff, and to continue searching for areas of weakness. I always say each day should be a day for improvement (although it has been a bit hard to stick by that rule recently), so asking around for guidance may be my best option.

    Reply

    • Yen Pham
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 12:03:48

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I agree with you that there are many ways for us to hone and strengthen our expertise after graduation. I enjoyed the way you discussed learning from staff, supervisors, and seminars. Yes, only by recognizing the limits of our expertise and focusing on improving it more can we meet the needs of our clients and provide them with effective treatments.

      Reply

    • Tayler Weathers
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 13:20:07

      Hi Elizabeth! This is a really good point. I also find myself in situations where complaining about work stress (either by me or others) increases the stress of the workplace and the moment. I don’t remember who, but I think it was one of the professors who joked that therapists like to complain about how overworked they are, maybe because it helps them feel like they are doing enough/validates their feelings? It really just means we need more self-care! Quieting those work-related thoughts is especially hard in a setting where they keep cropping up, or when people from work are constantly around, at least for me. Hopefully, once we have an office where we can close the door, this will get better! Plus, I think it can be a good chance to practice those boundaries we always tell our clients about….even with ourselves!

      Reply

    • Anne Marie
      Jun 18, 2022 @ 17:39:37

      Elizabeth, Your concern about the need to separate professional life and personal life is legitimate. A technic that I have found helpful is finding a spot on my commute home that I switch my work brain off by rolling down the windows and cranking up the radio. I commit to not thinking about work again until I pass that location again in the morning. However, with easy access to email it’s not always doable. Protecting your personal time is so essential to self care and I hope you find a routine that works for you.

      Reply

  5. Tayler Weathers
    Jun 15, 2022 @ 13:12:48

    1. My primary work stressors are a lack of balance in my schedule. I can imagine especially in a week where there are a lot of emergencies, I would find myself stressed not only that week, but for a few weeks to come. I tend to get stressed by the cumulative effect of having to shift things around, which may result in something like not having a rest day one week, etc. In particular, unpredictable or very variable schedules are really hard for me.
    2. As for dealing with the stress, I think the primary way it to set clear boundaries. When there might be some emergencies or something that needs to get done, I have to then set a boundary somewhere else. I also find that taking time off, for example having one whole day with nothing scheduled, helps a lot. In addition, another way of managing my stress is to re-evaluate my expectations for myself in the circumstances. If I have less time to do something than I planned because of something else, I have to evaluate if I start feel guilty or push myself to do more than I physically can do. This applies to scheduling events and homework too, as I have to make sure I’m not expecting myself to do more in a day or a week than I am physically capable of (especially if I want to do everything well!).
    3. I think the top two ways to continue developing and maintaining competency are engaging in good quality CEUs and also having lifelong supervision or consults. Pushing ourselves to learn and reevaluate can be hard, so it helps to have outside forces that can hold us accountable to do these things. The key is to pick positive outside influences that are manageable and truly helpful (i.e., don’t take a CEU on the Rorschach just because you need the credits). While this may feel more like a cognitive burden because we don’t necessarily care about the Rorschach and might have to “try” in another area, it helps to have structured opportunities to learn!

    Reply

    • Alexa Berry
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 14:49:11

      Hi Tayler,

      Variable schedules can be so difficult to manage! Especially with clients who may be cancelling, trying to reschedule appts, or request extra appointments. I can see how the uncertainty of how things will go in a given week can increase your stress levels. I agree with you that having one whole day off can be so useful (either for getting stuff done or doing nothing at all)! I liked the point you made about being intentional in choosing CEUs, they seem to be burdensome to those in the field, but it is a great opportunity to further counseling competency.

      Reply

    • Cailee Norton
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 11:59:49

      Tayler,

      You make an excellent point about emergencies! Often we think an emergency has an immediate response and fix, but in therapy that is simply not the case as there are usually weeks to follow of processing, planning, and practicing! I too get a bit stressed with shifting things, so I can understand what you mean by not having a rest day and almost reacting in an overhauling and attacking the problem sort of way. I hope with time and practice we are able to better balance these emergencies and our responses, and utilizing self-care seems to be an immensely effective way to do so. I also appreciate the aspect of self-reflection you mention. This is vital for us as clinicians as well as human beings! I’m glad that you mention this as it is a big part of our self-care regiment, that can sometimes be pushed off to the side for later.

      Best,
      Cailee

      Reply

  6. Alexa Berry
    Jun 15, 2022 @ 14:42:06

    One major concern I have for self-care/burnout in general is that I tend to spread myself very thin and don’t realize that I am getting burnt out until I am already burnt out. Luckily at my internship there was an emphasis on self-care, so I had some practice with making sure I was actually engaging in self-care activities and monitoring myself. Something that gets me stressed out is when I feel overscheduled and that I don’t have any down time, which is something I will have to navigate when I start to see clients because many agencies have insane expectations for caseloads/ productivity. Something client specific that I noticed contributed to poor self-care/burnout was when I had clients who always had some type of crisis when coming into session. I had a few like that during my internship, and it made it hard to get to their interventions & treatment plan to make any actual progress when we spent a lot of time putting out fires. My supervisor made sure to remind me that not everyone’s therapy process is linear, and it can take time, but I could definitely work on being more patient in that respect.

    Usually when I do get stressed out or feel like I am being spread too thin, I’ll look at my calendar and see where there is time for me to “pull back”. Recently I cut down on my work hours to alleviate some stress with the 3-hour summer semester classes, which I feel lucky to have been able to do so! Professionally when I notice myself getting stressed or burnt out I tend to seek supervision or spend some time socializing with co-workers. Some self-care tasks I like to use when I feel like I’m stressed are reading or going for a walk!

    In considering continually developing and maintaining my counseling competency throughout my career, I think I would like to land at a job where they offer on-site trainings. At my internship we had 10+ specialized trainings throughout the course of our placement, and I feel like I learned way more than I would have at another placement because of this! Definitely being at an agency that values professional development beyond just doing CEUs is something I’m looking for. Another way I like to work on developing competency is reading about topics I’m not all that familiar with. Some of the books I’ve read that I thought contributed to my knowledge on mental health topics I wasn’t all that familiar with are This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel (gender dysphoria) & The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (sexual abuse).

    Reply

    • Abby Robinson
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 17:24:39

      Hi Alexa!

      I too think that on site trainings are such a great way to stay competent in our counseling skills! I would definitely feel more inclined to attend these trainings since they would be on site and easily accessible! (aka we don’t have to travel to do them)! Also, I think these types of trainings on site are always up to date with what the staff members are looking for in upcoming trainings because the supervisors can check in with staff clinicians asking for what they would be interested in doing for it.
      See you in class!

      Reply

  7. Anna Lindgren
    Jun 15, 2022 @ 17:19:42

    1. I started to experience burnout last fall while at my internship. In part, I think it was because I had some cases that involved trauma and I think that I was almost getting secondhand trauma when my clients were sharing details of their trauma with me. I identified this as an issue with my supervisor and brainstormed ways that I could keep my own emotions and feelings of safety protected while still being empathetic to my clients.
    2. For me, the best ways to take care of myself when I am feeling stressed are to maintain my yoga/meditation practice. It helps to keep me centered and grounded. I’ve also found journaling to be a helpful tool when I am feeling overwhelmed and need to get my thoughts down win the page to reflect, problem-solve, and plan.
    3. One thing I want to do to continue growing as a counselor is to join some professional organization, but I’m not sure which one yet. I also would be interested in joining an informal book/article club with other counselors to discuss new articles on evidence-based practices or books on counseling.

    Reply

    • Beth Martin
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 18:02:58

      Hi Anna,

      I hear you on the vicarious trauma! If that’s something you’d like to continue working with in your career, my supervisor recommended Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky – I found it illuminating, and it helped me name and process a lot of the feelings I was getting around experiencing a lot of stress from someone else’s trauma.

      The informal book club sounds amazing! If you ever find one, or want to set one up, lemme know and I’ll join with you!

      Thanks for sharing, it sounds like you go and meditation have been wonderful for you 🙂

      Beth

      Reply

    • Maya Lopez
      Jun 15, 2022 @ 18:37:38

      Hey Anna,

      I think it is great you were able to be so self-aware and could identify how their trauma was impacting you. Sometimes that seems like half the battle is knowing why we don’t really hope a client doesn’t show up or hope they don’t share their trauma could be a manifestation of having an issue with returning to baseline after the sessions. So it’s great this didn’t manifest and your supervisor was so helpful with that. I also absolutely love your idea about having a group discuss relevant literature! If you find one or start one let me know! 🙂

      Reply

    • Alison Kahn
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 09:59:14

      Hi, Anna!

      I really like your idea about joining professional organizations or clubs to maintain competency as a counselor. I hadn’t thought much about that when I was writing my own post, but I think it would be super beneficial for me, too!

      Reply

  8. Beth Martin
    Jun 15, 2022 @ 18:05:06

    1. I think my primary burnout-related concern is always going to be figuring out what’s a manageable caseload for me – I know I’ll eventually hit the right number that feels comfortable, but I do worry about burnout that may occur in the period in between starting and finding that magic amount of clients/cases. During my internship, I realized a considerable amount of my burnout was coming from a specific case, and the stress was primarily coming from caregivers. I know working with children and adolescents is always going to run the risk of having a caregiver involved that can be stressful; maybe they want you to fix their kid but not be involved in treatment, or have a set diagnosis in mind and won’t budge, or are actively contributing to your client’s presenting symptoms. Or a combination of all three, with extra intricacies on the side too. That’s where I see a lot of client burnout coming from, and I’m hoping to build skills in managing my response to them all.

    2. My most effective way of dealing with it (during my internship, at least), has been to utilize supervision, set very firm boundaries, and do my best to be flexible. Using supervision allows me to be very open with myself about the sources of stress, how it’s impacting me, and get insight and perspective on how I may be contributing to it building up (not acknowledging my own thoughts etc). Boundaries are always a good way to set up a buffer to prevent stress in the first place; boundary stompers are definitely out there though. So I’ve been heading to the gym and training my dog as stress-busters (because it’s inevitable) – seeing progress in anything always helps me refocus and re-assess whether something is worth spending my energy on. I like sewing for the same reason too!

    3. On top of CEUs, I’m planning on joining as many learning communities as I can when I’m presented with the opportunity. I’m a member of one now, and it’s been really insightful; listening in to how other people build their treatment plans, how they tackle specific cases etc. has given me new tools for my toolkit and ways to approach treatment that I hadn’t been exposed to before.

    Reply

    • Alison Kahn
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 09:57:00

      Hi, Beth!

      I really liked your comment about setting boundaries when it comes to managing stress. I talked a little bit about that in my post as well, but I have realized during my time working in the field that setting boundaries is a difficult task for me and I am still working on developing that skill. I agree that it is so important when it comes to managing stress and being a competent counselor!

      Reply

    • Cailee Norton
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 11:55:41

      Beth,

      I’m with you on the concern for burnout. With a caregiver in the mix of therapy, I can imagine how hard that is to balance what they want or are willing to do with what your therapeutic belief is. I worked exclusively with individuals above the age of 18, but when there was an enmeshed caregiver in the mix it definitely complicated things. I’m glad that you were able to set boundaries and utilize the wonderful relationship a supervisor can provide. As we navigate these new roles, this type of relationship will be endlessly helpful. I’m interested in which membership you’re apart of? I’m beginning to research some and would love to hear what you’ve found to be helpful!!

      Best,
      Cailee

      Reply

  9. Brianna Walls
    Jun 15, 2022 @ 21:26:17

    1) One concern I have regarding self-care is being too exhausted by the end of the day or even for the weekend to commit to any self-care activities other than lounging around the house and binge-watching TV shows. This concerns me as I like to hang out with friends and family during my free time to destress and relax and have a good time. However, if I am exhausted or burnt out, I may just want to be alone and therefore I may start isolating myself.
    2) One way I like to destress is hanging out with friends and family. Whether we just hang out at my house or their house or go out for dinner and drinks. Another way I like to destress is hanging out with my puppy and my cat. Being around animals is such a de-stressor for me and after graduation, I will be working my first full-time job so being away from them all day concerns me. Another way I like to destress is by taking a long warm bath and using essential oil/candles and just listening to my favorite music. Any ‘self-care’ activity helps me destress from going on walks to getting my hair done, to taking a nap.
    3) One way I can assure that I am continually developing and maintaining my counseling competency is first and foremost taking care of myself physically and mentally. So for me, this means exercising daily, drinking my water and coffee, and eating 2-3 meals a day. Taking care of myself mentally I need to make sure I am making time for my friends and family, but I also need to make sure I am making time for myself and letting myself have breaks when I need them. I also need to make sure I keep a good social network of other clinicians/co-workers so if there is something that is bothering me I can go to them and my supervisor for advice and/or vent!

    Reply

    • Connor Belland
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 20:03:08

      Hi Brianna,
      I agree that it probably necessary to find coping skills for burnout that isn’t just binge-watching TV shows, but I think days like that can also be helpful. I think if doing those things do help you though than it could be a valid coping skills. Social activity is great but sometimes just being alone is needed.

      Reply

  10. Alison Kahn
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 09:52:33

    (1) What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients – What might/does get you stressed?

    When it comes to self-care and burnout, I find that I struggle to “disconnect” from work and/or thinking about the well-being and history of my clients. Working in congregate care, we often encounter students that have extensive trauma histories and behavioral challenges. At times, reading through their histories while simultaneously working with them directly can cause a lot of emotions to come up. I also find myself struggling to shut off my work phone and let the on-call services in place manage crisis situations during my off hours. I worry that I might run into similar challenges in future jobs, especially when it comes to agencies that emphasize “work-life balance” but don’t prioritize their employees or encourage them to use their paid time off or set boundaries with their personal and professional lives.

    (2) Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress?

    I have managed to find some success dealing with the challenges of my current role (and I hope to use the same techniques in the future) by setting small goals for myself. For example, I make a plan to shut my work phone off for the entire day Saturday, or after 5pm on a weekday, and not turn it back on until the following day. I will also leave my work phone at home if I travel or have plans during the weekend. I usually allow myself time to go through my emails and get caught up on Sunday nights so that I feel prepared for the upcoming week. I have found that this is particularly helpful versus trying to set hard boundaries that are unrealistic for me. I also try to engage in activities that I find enjoyable and practice mindfulness throughout the week.

    (3) Your professional development and personal growth does not end once you graduate.  What are your thoughts about the best way you can assure that you are continually developing and maintaining your counseling competency?

    I think that being aware of my limits, continuing to practice mindful activities, seeking peer and supervisory consult, and keeping up to date with evidence based practice is key to maintaining counseling competency.

    Reply

  11. Cailee Norton
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 11:51:52

    I think that one of the biggest concerns I have is burnout due to full caseloads. As we all know this field is growing rapidly, and demand is often far more than what is available. Based on some of my peers descriptions of their sites, and even what was expected of them as interns, I’m afraid that we will be unloaded upon when we are just entering our jobs. I think that I have a mentality of proving myself to wherever hires me, and that could lead to taking on that challenge to my own detriment. I think it’s very difficult to find a balance between self-care, work life, and even personal life. It’ll take an adjustment period to really be able to strike that balance, and my biggest concern is that period of time will not be available. The repercussions of this are burnout, and this directly impacts my ability to work with clients and provide them the best care possible. It’s imperative that I’m able to set boundaries with clients, coworkers, and my site in order to provide that type of care. This is obviously much easier said than done, but I’m hopeful with practice I’m able to be direct about my needs and when I’m not doing so well and need support.

    I think one of the best ways I have to deal with stress is through doing something with my hands. I love cooking and baking, and learning about other cultures and their foods and replicating them is one way I’ve dealt with the stress from balancing internship, grad school, and life in general. I also really enjoy walking my dog, sometimes three times a day, just to be able to clear my head. While I can’t necessarily do that during the day when I’m practicing, I think I can maintain this while I work by doing it before or after. I also find that practicing mindfulness and using many of the techniques we preach about to our clients has been effective for me as well.

    I think that finding sources for ourselves will be critical to our development after graduation. Continuing relationships with those in the field, finding out what their learning or passionate about, and using that as a guide is a great way to start that further education. Signing up for memberships with organizations that publish research is another way to keep up to date, as well as seeking out opportunities for talks, presentations, conferences, etc. Once we are out of our field I think we will really begin to find our interests and find ways to connect it to our CBT roots and implementation in our practice. EBP is a part of how we operate, and I think after graduation it’s exciting for us to be able to pursue it to our unique interests and sites.

    Reply

    • Laura Wheeler
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 15:57:01

      Hi Cailee,

      I am right there with you- cooking and baking are so therapeutic! Truthfully, during the early lock down days, I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have my family to cook and bake for. It kept me busy and relaxed, but is also such a special way to connect with people and show that you care about them. I also really appreciated your thoughts about continued development. My mind went immediately to continued training and education opportunities but you had a great idea, memberships that allow us access to new research is a great idea. I think I’m so used to being “assigned” articles and studies to read that I failed to recognize that we will have to maintain access to those things on our own eventually!

      Reply

    • Beth Martin
      Jun 17, 2022 @ 13:14:29

      Hi Cailee!

      I love that you’re using skills with your hands as a de-stresser – there’s something incredibly grounding about cooking/baking, and being able to provide for those you love at the same time is a bonus (cooking makes me feel less guilty about taking time for self-care because I’m doing service for others at the same time).
      Signing up for access to research should be hugely beneficial for us all – I know I take our current access for granted, and it’ll be nice to read things for our own benefit and interests. Conferences sound fun too!

      Thank you for sharing!

      Reply

  12. Abby Robinson
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 15:14:26

    1. My concerns for burnout and self-care with clients are 1. having a case load that is too much for my schedule (too many clients) and 2. having several clients that have a lot of trauma and SI, and having to manage vicarious trauma all of the time. I think that I am worried that I won’t be able to “leave my work at work” and think about it outside of my office hours. The tougher cases stick around in my brain, making boundaries between work and home blurry and hard to manage sometimes. I think I am also worried that my case load will be too big and I won’t have enough time to keep up with notes, paperwork, meetings, etc. Not staying on top of my priorities adds a lot of stress. Added stress would also come from not having to right support at work as well.
    2.I usually deal with stress by spending time with my close family and friends as well as all my pets! I try to maintain a regular schedule outside of work that involves all of these to help keep my stress low. When I don’t maintain this schedule outside of work and school my anxiety increases and my work/home boundaries are not as clear.
    3. I think by choosing educational, useful and relevant CEU courses are a good way to maintain counseling competency. I would also be interested in getting training in other areas such as DBT, TF-CBT, etc. Additionally, I think that staying in contact with and collaborating with peer counselors helps keep fresh idea of your counseling competency. I think it would be helpful and important to have some sort of team meetings, group meetings as well as individual supervision regularly.

    Reply

    • Brianna Walls
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 15:33:31

      Hi Abby, I agree with you I too am worried I will not be able to leave work-related problems at the office. I am especially worried about this if I am working from my house (teletherapy). I think it is extremely important to learn how to separate the two or else this will lead to burnout and stress. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

    • Laura Wheeler
      Jun 16, 2022 @ 16:04:08

      Hi Abby,

      I agree, having a caseload that is heavy with SI or trauma would be overwhelming and probably very stressful. Even though I feel really motivated to work with underserved communities, sometimes these kinds of concerns make different arenas of work seem a bit more tempting… potentially less trauma exposure in a different population and so on. I guess I am hopeful that we will be leaving our education adequately prepared to deal with difficult clients and caseloads and will have the skills to maintain a work/life balance. I also agree about getting some formal training in DBT and TF-CBT, I am hopeful we can all stay connected and share worthwhile training opportunities when we come across them because it seems many of us have the same things in mind!

      Reply

  13. Laura Wheeler
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 15:51:53

    First, what causes me stress is being behind on completing paperwork or anything of the sort. I worry about having too many clients in order to keep up with productivity and then getting behind on notes or treatment plans. This is also what would cause burnout for me. As for self-care, my concern is time and commitment. I often let time for myself fall to the back burner because there are so many other things that feel like they should take priority. With that said, I was reviewing a list of “self care” items recently and I also think I need to shift my mindset, because there are probably lots of things I do that actually are effective self care that I don’t necessarily consider as such (like mowing the lawn, doing the dishes and listening to music, taking a walk, etc). I think ultimately the goal will be to maintain a balance between work life and home life that allows me to be an effective counselor with my clients, while also taking care of myself. I know that lack of self care will result in less success at work, and being behind/stressed at work will result in less self care, so the trick is maintaining that very delicate balance.

    Although my job right now is not particularly stressful, I still make it a point to practice stress management. My go-to is usually cleaning or taking care of my many houseplants. I find that tending to the things that make me happy- my home, my plants, my dogs, my family- is what recharges me and decreases my stress. I do need to get better at pushing through stress when important tasks need to be accomplished, though.

    Lastly, professional development is an area of high importance for me. As I continue to look for employment opportunities for post-graduation, finding a position that provides on-site training and reimbursement for additional training is very important. After graduation I definitely have my immediate sights set on getting some solid DBT training, and maybe a certificate in substance abuse counseling. I have found that networking is a tremendous resource for hearing about additional educational and training opportunities too, so I hope to continue to expand on that. I also want to always commit myself to staying current with cultural issues, especially through educational panels (vs. lecture style trainings) since they have been the most eye opening to me in the past (particularly with regard to marginalized communities). For me, being a part of the mental health community means maintaining a position of allyship and advocacy for those who are underserved, oppressed, discriminated against, etc. so continuing education is definitely a top priority for me.

    Reply

  14. Nicole
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 16:46:43

    (1) What are some of your concerns for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with clients – What might/does get you stressed?

    One area of concern for me in the counseling field is encountering clients who engage in self-injurious behaviors (SIB). In the behavioral health hospital where I work at, there are times where I may see someone actively engaging in self harm. Through all of the things that I have experienced while working in an inpatient setting, I find that seeing people engage in SIB , whether it be cutting or at times, headbanging, can be unsettling for me. I try to look at the situation objectively in order to separate my emotions from it when it happens. At the same time, I do also provide compassion and support to the individual. It can be challenging to balance these two things, and it is an area that I want to improve upon. Although I want to improve my response during these instances, I don’t picture myself to continue working with the population that I do right now in the future. The kind of populations served and the setting they are served in can cause a high burn-out rate. This is part of my reasoning for not continuing to work with the level of acuity that I am with now.

    Another concern that comes up for me when considering factors that could contribute to burnout is team support and motivation. I have experienced working on a disconnected team, and it can be challenging and tiresome. At the same time, having poor team communication can lead to poor job performance and poor morale. I think good team work can also be reflective of effective and supportive management, which is something I also value.

    (2) Do you have any effective ways to deal with such stress?

    Physical activity is one of my favorite ways to deal with stress. I enjoy activities like going to the gym or walking outside with friends or my dog. I have even noticed that one days where I don’t run for as long as I normally do, I don’t feel as “refreshed”. On those days where I either run, or I spend a lot of time being physically active, I have noticed that I experience a lot less anxious thoughts related to work performance and overall stress from the day than I have tended to experience after work. Because of that, I find engaging in exercises for at least 20 minutes to be a great coping skill that I can utilize in my daily routine.

    (3) Your professional development and personal growth does not end once you graduate. What are your thoughts about the best way you can assure that you are continually developing and maintaining your counseling competency?

    I think that by regularly attending training and workshops, I can better immerse myself in the field. Through attending training, I can build upon my skills and learn new ones. They can also serve as a good social setting for coworkers to get to know one another better. I do have to say that it was difficult to get participation during training over zoom. However, the ones I was able to attend in person were much more interactive. I would also want to develop a good relationship with my supervisor. I think that having a supervisor can provide an effective amount of mentoring.

    Reply

  15. Carly moris
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 18:07:31

    1.
    One of my worries for burnout is having a number of cases that remind me of problems from my past or current personal life. I know that at some point I am going to have clients that cause me to have personal reactions. I had a few cases like this at my internship, and these were defiantly the hardest clients for me to work with. In these cases we need to take time to examine our personal reactions to make sure they are not interfering with therapy. However if it relates to a problem we are currently dealing with it can be hard to find a time to do this productively. Like, did I actually process my feelings and how they may effect therapy, or am I over analyzing and ruminating about this? I know this is why its important to have a good supervisor to talk to and to also go to therapy if need be. But having a number of cases like this can defiantly contribute to burnout.
    2
    I have a few effective ways to deal with stress, the main way is making sure to engage in self-care. I’ve found it helps to have both high and low energy things to do for self care. So days when I have more energy and time I go on hikes or garden; and days I am tired or don’t feel good I do face masks/hair treatments and knit. I also find it helpful to set small goals or have projects (knitting project, new hike, weeding) to do in my personal time, that produce positive feelings and a sense of accomplishment. For me its accepting the fact that dealing with stress doesn’t mean having no stress, but finding a way to bring positive things into my life to help counteract it.
    3
    I think the best best way to continue our professional growth is to attend workshops and courses for our CEU’s that are relevant to our current practice.

    Reply

    • Nicole Giannetto
      Jun 23, 2022 @ 17:10:27

      Hi Carly! I also agree that a helpful way I can continue to educate myself in the field is through attending trainings. My internship experienced showed me that there are so many trainings available, and that a lot of organizations can provide trainings for their employees.

      Reply

  16. Connor Belland
    Jun 16, 2022 @ 18:37:51

    I am definitely concerned about burnout over the next two years. I think after licensure I will still be worried about burnout, but higher pay would definitely make the work feel more worth it. My main concern for burnout is having a large caseload that is difficult to manage or consumes all of my time and thoughts. With a large caseload I probably would not have enough time to complete all the additional paperwork too without working longer hours. Along with a large caseload I am worried about having a tough caseload with patients that are really struggling because I tend to worry about them more and it makes it harder to separate from work when I get home.
    So far what works for me to deal with stress is physical activity and social interaction. I love to get outside in nature, play sports like basketball, or go fishing as a way to destress. Putting myself all into an activity like basketball or playing the guitar takes my mind off of anything else. Seeing friends and family regularly is also very helpful for destressing. I hope I can maintain a good social life when I begin to work longer hours.
    I am honestly not sure what the best way is to continue developing and maintaining counseling competency as I have heard a lot of different things from people. I think group supervision is definitely important to continue to learn and grown. Attending different courses and trainings on subjects I am interested in and also some I don’t know enough about to keep learning more to be a more well-rounded therapist. I’ve also heard subscribing to monthly journal/magazines on Psychology subjects can also be helpful as well.

    Reply

    • Nicole Giannetto
      Jun 23, 2022 @ 17:12:41

      Hi Connor, I also agree that attending 1:1 supervision will be helpful as we continue our careers in this field. One thing I had considered which might be useful for you as well, is that I plan to seek out trainings or seminars to attend to continue educating myself as I go along in my career.

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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