Topics 3 & 4: Self-Care & Professional Development {6/9}

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 6/9.  Post your two replies no later than 6/11.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Monica Teeven
    Jun 04, 2021 @ 16:48:04

    1. My biggest concern is that I will experience burnout symptoms and not engage in self-care. This is because I will feel negative emotions such as guilt that I am not helping clients when they request my help 24/7. Another stressor for me is when an organization assigns other paperwork/assignments to a clinician and expects them to be completed in an unrealistic time frame especially when they have a heavy caseload. I understand that sometimes supervisors are unable to provide a clinician a decent amount of time to complete something due to unforeseeable circumstances. However, if this kind of situation is frequent, then I will be stressed on a pretty regular basis on all the tasks I need to do successfully in an unrealistic time frame.

    2. One way that I was effective in reducing my overall stress level while interning this past year, is to not look at my email on the weekend. This has helped me separate work from home which has been even more difficult with everything being remote. Since Covid-19 seems to be lightening up a bit, I believe the self-care strategies that helped me in the past to reduce my overall stress level can be implemented again. Things such as going out to eat in restaurants with multiple friends. Spending time with friends at another place besides my home helps me “get away” from both home and work stressors.

    3. One way that I can assure that I am continuing to develop my counseling competency is by observing other clinicians conduct counseling sessions. I have always enjoyed listening/observing other group and/or individual sessions that were run by different clinicians while I was at my internship. Every clinician has their own distinct style. For example, my supervisor was great at validating peoples thoughts and emotions. She would provide relatable examples she personally experienced to concepts that were being taught in the anxiety group she ran, without disclosing too much information about herself. One way that I can maintain my counseling competency is to get counseling for myself. During my internship, I realized that dealing with stress from internship and home issues for multiple months made my anxiety spike which lead to developing negative physical symptoms. Everyone deals with both home and work stress, but when it continues for months, it can really have a negative effect. I have come to the conclusion that I should find a counselor in hopes of preventing the level and frequency of anxiety I experienced this past year from happening again.


    • Robert Salvucci
      Jun 11, 2021 @ 15:29:33

      Hey Monica!

      I think navigating boundaries with client’s does have potential to induce guilt, it’s important to find a balance between helping the folks we support and taking care of our own needs. I’ve also found that as paperwork piles up, I become more distracted and less mindful during sessions and feel like I need to take less breaks and cram more in short windows to stay on track. We can never really know how an office will function until we’re there, which can create some anxiety.

      Taking breaks from e-mail is a great idea haha, otherwise work and personal time can blend together and we’ll feel like we’re always working. Covid easing up will definitely create more opportunities to de-stress and separate ourselves from the hectic nature of the field.

      Working with other clinicians is always really interesting and a positive way to integrate different approaches into our own style. I also agree that doing therapy for ourselves can be very useful. My own sessions have been wonderful for processing stressful situations and staying accountable for my own self care.


    • Shelby Piekarczyk
      Jun 11, 2021 @ 16:05:37

      Hi Monica,

      I agree completely that I always feel that I should be there for clients 24/7 and this could create burnout. This also would not give me much time for self care and really making sure my physical / mental health are where it should be. Additionally, I agree that social networks and spending time with friends is a great coping skill. This can be increased now with COVID restrictions being reduced so I also plan to use this skill more frequently. I also need to make sure I am actively seeking out my friends and making plans because at points I tend to isolate myself and not reach out to my friends as much as I should.


  2. Jenna Nikolopoulos
    Jun 08, 2021 @ 09:34:57

    1. One concern that I have for self-care/burnout when it comes to working with my clients is that I won’t have time to engage in self-care because I’ll feel so busy not only working with my clients, but also juggling everything else going on in my life at the moment that self-care will fall to the back burner. I feel like I do this often and even did this in my internship where I would be so busy with my schoolwork and catching up on my client notes or yearly assessments that I prioritized getting my work done over taking some time for myself. Another concern I have is that I will have a limited amount of time to get my paperwork done with a large caseload. At my internship, the average caseload for a clinician was about 28 clients and they expected client notes to be done within at least 72 hours of seeing the individual, or less depending on how the person was doing. Even though I only saw 8 clients a week, it was hard for me to keep up with my client notes considering I also had to make sure I was keeping track of my schoolwork. I know I will have more time to focus on my clients when I am not in school anymore and am just working, however, making sure I’m meeting small deadlines with a large number of clients will cause me to be stressed and constantly thinking about the paperwork I need to get done. A third concern I have is that my burnout will start affecting the work I do with my clients. I want to make sure I am always prepared to see my clients and I’m afraid that being burnt out will cause me to slack on my professional responsibilities to my clients and leave me unable to provide them with adequate sessions.

    2. One way that I deal with stress is to walk away from a situation. If I have been working on something for too long that has left me feeling stressed, I walk away for an hour or two to recenter myself and clear my head before attempting the task again. This has helped me to avoid overthinking too much about the task and enables me to come back to the task with fresh eyes and a clear mind ready to get back to work. Another way that I deal with stress is by taking the time to connect with family and friends and engage in a fun activity. Whether it be going into Boston or going out for a nice meal, getting out with others and engaging in a fun activity helps distract me from my negative feelings and lets me focus on the positive. I spend a good majority of my time in my room where I can focus on my work, but sometimes it is good to remind myself that being around others can boost my morale and even help motivate me to get what I need to do done. A third way I deal with stress is to just talk it out with someone. This can be really helpful in terms of letting out all the negative thoughts and feelings that have accumulated due to my stress and hearing another person’s perspective on the matter. Talking it out with someone can also provide great support in just feeling heard, comforted, and validated.

    3. One way that I can assure that I’m continually developing and maintaining my counseling competency is to take advantage of any free trainings that the organization I work for offers to its staff. Open Sky offered so many trainings and webinars while I interned there and it was great having access to all these opportunities to learn about new techniques or developing my skills further in standardized practices (e.g., CBT/DBT). Another way I can do this is by keeping tabs on the latest psychological research that is coming out and reading up on any new findings regarding interventions. This will help me keep up to date with current psychological practices and may even give me new ideas for techniques that I can use with my clients. A third way I can continually develop and maintain my counseling competency is making sure I am seeking out counseling for myself when I need it. Because burn out is such an important thing to be aware of when working with people, taking the time to address my own burnout with a mental health professional is important in making sure that I am competent and capable enough to work with my clients so that I am my best self. I can’t do much to help my clients if I’m not able to help myself.


    • Monica Teeven
      Jun 08, 2021 @ 16:17:22

      Hi Jenna! Reading your blog post this week made me realize I forgot something that I think is really important when looking for jobs after graduation which is being provided good training through the organization. I have heard that OpenSky has great training for their clinicians and interns, along with the fact they are CBT and DBT based. In addition, in your blog post, you mentioned that you were concerned about potential burnout symptoms affecting your sessions with your clients which is something I did not have in my blog post, but is a concern of mine as well. I know there are no clear answer to this question, but my real question now is: When the burnout is related to the workload at the organization you work for, when should you walk away and find a new job?


    • Melanie Sergel
      Jun 10, 2021 @ 12:23:22

      Hi Jenna! I agree with you that it can be stressful to make deadlines and that this was something that stressed me out when during my internship. I think a way to manage this is by trying to stay organized. At my internship, the other clinician and my supervisor would see clients Monday-Thursday and save Friday for paperwork, I am unsure if every job has the opportunity to do this, but I think if you set time aside for paperwork it may help ease your stress. I also at times feel that with all the work we have to do and the deadlines we have to meet that I may put self-care on the back burner, but I definitely have felt this way more because of school and internship. Hopefully, when we are finished with school, we will be able to have more time after work for self-care.


  3. Melanie Sergel
    Jun 08, 2021 @ 12:27:03

    1. One of my concerns about self-care/burnout is not making time for myself to engage in self-care which will result in burnout. I am concerned that I will work overtime that I will be exhausted after work and not engage in pleasurable activities. Since I already work in a residential setting with adolescents and plan to continue working in this setting, I already am aware of what some stressors in this setting. In residential, there will times where there will be crises, such as restraints, and this will result in your schedule for the day to drastically change as you need to ensure all incident reports are completed. Although I have experience with this already, as a residential caseworker it does not change my shift drastically because we have minimal paperwork to complete. However, as a clinician with meetings and other paperwork/responsibilities I worry that with crises in the program it might leave me with little time to complete my responsibilities. Also, I worry that doing on call might leave me stressed or with little time to engage in self-care.

    2. Some ways I have dealt with stress effectively is spending time with friends and family. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family by having game nights or going out to eat, and it helps me take my mind off of things when I need to. Another way I can manage my stress is to not work on my time off as this will definitely increase the possibility of experiencing burnout. I know it can be easy to fall into a pattern of spending your time off to complete work, for example, to ensure all paperwork is handed in at the appropriate time, but it is also just as important to enjoy the time off from work.

    3. One way that I can assure to develop and maintain my counseling competency is by attending trainings inside and outside of work. By doing this it will help me remain aware of current practices in the field and ensure that I am receiving refreshers on skills/techniques. I can also maintain my counseling competency by ensuring that I am utilizing supervision effectively. Supervision is only useful if you are going in with questions and/or concerns that your supervisor can provide their clinical knowledge to assist you with your professional growth. I think this will also help with providing me education on techniques that I am not aware or need assistance with learning how to implement.


    • Jenna Nikolopoulos
      Jun 09, 2021 @ 20:09:26

      Hi Mel! I think you brought up a good point about utilizing supervision in regards to maintaining my counseling competency. Supervision is a great resource when you’re having problems or concerns with clients as your supervisor’s years of experience and accumulated knowledge can prove to be beneficial in helping you figure out what to do with your own clients. I really enjoyed having weekly supervision with my counselor as he was insightful in helping guide me with certain clients, provided me with suggestions on interventions that could be helpful, and was always willing to hear me out on any concerns or questions I had about the work we were doing.


    • Shelby Piekarczyk
      Jun 11, 2021 @ 16:08:11

      Hi Mel,

      I agree that one main thing that will contribute to my burnout is overworking myself. I tend to take on more than I can handle, not only physically at my job but also others problems/issues they may be dealing with. This is an area that I need to improve on / work on because this creates mental strain for myself, leading to burnout and reduced self care. I believe that making sure we are aware of this can be a big factor in our professional career moving forward. Lastly, I think going to trainings would be a great way to keep up with the field and your career. I also plan to attend many trainings and hopefully there will be some in other states so we can also explore while increasing our knowledge!


  4. Shelby Piekarczyk
    Jun 08, 2021 @ 14:38:34

    1. One of my concerns about self-care/burnout is feeling too overwhelmed to take the time for self-care. As I have seen in my internship/ have learned throughout my studies, therapy and therapists is a very needed field. Because of this, clinicians are assigned a caseload that at points is unmanageable. This makes me nervous and feel that if I have a caseload that is too big I will not engage in self-care or become very burnt out. Additionally, I always want to give 100% and because of this nature I am also nervous I will give 24/7 care to all clients, putting myself on the back burner. I think it is very important to give your clients your full attention but as a therapist it is very important to also maintain our own self-care so that we can provide our clients with the most effective treatment.

    2. There are many ways that I have dealt with my stress that has proven to be effective. First, working out (e.g., running, lifting) has been a great coping skill for myself and is a way that I relieve majority of my stress. After I complete a workout I feel great and happy that I accomplished something for myself. Another way that I deal with stress is playing with my dog or taking him on a walk. I love doing different things with my dog and being around/with him always puts me in a great mood. Lastly, I am very close with my family so talking out my stress and concerns has always been a stress reliever for myself. These outlets have proven to be very effective for me through all spans of my life. Lastly, another coping strategy that I would like to do more and get better at is meditation. I have found in the past this has helped to calm me down but I have stopped doing this recently. I think starting meditation again would be a great stress reliever for my presently and in my future career.

    3. There are many different ways that I can continue my professional and education growth post graduation. The first way I can do this is asking to sit in during other clinicians sessions or co-leading a session with another clinician. During my internship I was able to co-lead sessions and different group programs and this really helped me in the learning process and made me feel more comfortable as a clinician. Also, co-leading a group or session with another clinician allows them to see how/what I am doing and provide me with constructive criticism. Another way I can continue my professionals and educational growth is signing up for different talks, lectures, or seminars conducted within the field. By participating in these events it will help to continue my learning and help to keep my up to tabs with what is going on in the field. Lastly, continuing to read different books will help to continue my learning process and help me to gather more information.


    • Monica Teeven
      Jun 08, 2021 @ 16:17:53

      Hi Shelby! I am also concerned about experiencing burnout due to a large caseload especially since I have seen clinicians struggling to manage large caseloads. I think I have more concerns about experiencing burnout symptoms because the pandemic’s side effects have increased mental health issues everywhere. Due to this increase, the waitlists for individuals to get into an inpatient facility, intensive outpatient facility, or getting a clinician for a weekly session, can take weeks to months. I am hoping that due to this increase, there will be more awareness of our field and how there is an imbalance between the number of clinicians and the number of individuals that need mental health services.


    • Jenna Nikolopoulos
      Jun 09, 2021 @ 20:18:05

      Hi Shelby! I totally agree with what you said about using exercising to relieve your stress. Even though I have unfortunately gotten out of the habit of exercising, it used to be such a great way for me to de-stress and recenter myself. I loved getting a good work out in in the mornings and then having the rest of the day in front of me. This way, I had already gotten my physical activity out of the way for the day and I felt like I had already accomplished something. I also felt it boosted my energy for the remainder of the day. Also, I have recently thought about getting into meditation. I think it would be a good way to help me relax and allow me to rest my eyes from constantly looking at screens!


    • Madison Armstrong
      Jun 11, 2021 @ 17:00:56

      Hi Shelby!
      I am also concerned about feeling too burnout or overwhelmed to find time for self-care. You make a great point that since therapists are so needed, they are often assigned very large caseloads of clients. I am concerned that I will become overwhelmed with my caseload and by the time I get home from work I will just want to relax by scrolling on my phone or watching TV. Being around my dog or taking him on a walk is also something that will immediately put me in a great mood. I think just being around dogs (or even other animals) in general can have such a calming effect on people. Meditation is something that I would also like to start practicing more as well. I used to do meditation and found that it relieved a lot of stress and was very calming, but I have gotten out of the habit of doing this.


  5. Robert Salvucci
    Jun 08, 2021 @ 14:43:54

    1. I’m concerned with initially being eager and taking on too many client’s/responsibilities and finding that I don’t have enough time during a shift to manage everything. I’ve definitely noticed that I am much less patient and mindful during sessions when I know I’m behind on paperwork, and it makes it more difficult to focus in between sessions when I feel very behind. I’ve also noticed that when I see more than three clients in a row, I begin to feel very restless and will likely need to schedule in a short break after three consecutive sessions if possible. There have also been times where difficult situations at work lingered in my mind when I went home, so I want to continue practicing techniques that help me keep a growth-oriented mindset and approach challenges with some optimism and self-acceptance.

    2. I really think of stress management as an ongoing & holistic process. Practicing mindfulness, being aware of my breathing, noticing my inner narrative, noticing my posture, practicing self-compassion and acceptance with each thought/emotion, these are all things I try to do in each moment, including during and after sessions. Having a healthy sleep schedule, positive routines, exercising, meaningful relationships, sexual intimacy, eating a balanced diet, minimizing substance use, engaging in fulfilling hobbies, spending time in nature, feeling that your work has meaning, practicing gratitude, etc. all contribute to our state of stress at any given moment. When I’m attending to all of my needs, I am invariably more resilient to and accepting of stress. During times when stress feels particularly intense or overwhelming it is even more important to keep these things in check. When my stress gets to very high levels and I feel I’m having trouble coping in the moment, I use breathing techniques, mindfulness and cognitive restructuring if am in a situation where leaving isn’t possible. If I’m feeling this at home, talking to others, exercising, journaling, going outside, breathing techniques and cold showers are my go-to (healthy & effective means of coping with stress). Distracting myself with excessive video game playing, oversleeping, excessively long hot showers and/or bingeing on social media/youtube content are generally my avoidant and unhelpful coping strategies of choice.

    3. I’m very grateful that the field I work in generates spontaneous interest for me. I’m always reading books, listening to podcasts & lectures, writing, creating online content and practicing as many counseling techniques for myself as I can find, regardless of whether or not I’m in school. I also get a lot out of supervision and my own therapy sessions. Hopefully the organization I work for will also offer plenty of educational opportunities to stay sharp.


    • Madison Armstrong
      Jun 11, 2021 @ 16:50:48

      Hi Bobby!
      I agree with you that if possible, scheduling in a short break after back-to-back clients would help with feeling more focused and less restless throughout the day. I think that this could be especially helpful to give myself a moment for something self-care related, whether it’s eating lunch, or standing up and taking a walk in the hall. I also think that reading will be one of my go-tos for continuing to develop my competency as a counselor. I think that it is great that the field we are in has many different topic areas to explore and continue to learn more about.


  6. Madison Armstrong
    Jun 09, 2021 @ 11:53:25

    1. One of my concerns for experiencing burnout when working with clients is knowing when to turn work off and engage in self-care. I feel as though there is always something that I could be doing work wise whether it be session notes, updating treatment plans, contacting collaterals and other miscellaneous paperwork. Especially working from home doing telehealth it is hard to draw the boundary between “work time” and self-care time. I think it can also be very stressful when I have clients back-to-back and for some circumstances a session goes overtime and then I run late to my next session or don’t get a brief break to do notes and orient myself for the next client. This is a circumstance that is can be difficult to prevent due to clients getting emotional or bringing up something important towards the end of a session. However, I think that this is something I can improve upon knowing when it can be appropriate to let them know we might have to save a topic for next time.

    2. Although screen time can be effective in the moment at distracting myself from whatever is causing my stress, I try to limit myself with this because it is not effective at dealing with my stress long term. I try to deal with my stress in the moment by taking a brief pause and practicing a grounding strategy or deep breathing. When the weather is nice, I find that being outside and getting fresh air can be very grounding and a great stress reliever. Another effective way that I deal with stress is making to-do lists for myself. I find that the task completion of crossing something off has always made me feel like I have accomplished something and relieved some stress.

    3. I think that one of the best ways that I can assure I am continually developing my competency as a counselor would be to attend different trainings. From my internship it was evident that there are many different trainings that are offered to clinicians to continue to develop counseling competency. Another way that I can achieve this is by reading different books, manuals, and other reading material on different topics that are new or interesting to me and the population that I work with. I think that it would also be beneficial for me to look into trainings or reading materials that differ from the population I work with to expand upon my counseling knowledge.


    • Melanie Sergel
      Jun 10, 2021 @ 12:11:49

      Hi Madi! I think it is a good idea to maintain counseling competency by reading different books and other reading materials. This is definitely a good way to do this because there will always be new reading materials that are up to date and provide us education on topics we may have not known about/want to know more about or helps us continue to stay up to date with. I like that you mention to do trainings that differ from the population you work with because when we get our license our populations that we work with may change and it is likely that some of us will change jobs once we get our license. I also like that you mention that you make to-do lists to help ease your stress. I also try to do this at times and did this throughout my internship because it was helpful for me to stay organized/relieved my stress when I had everything I needed to do written down along with when they needed to be completed by. Also, it felt good to be able to check off that I completed a task.


    • Robert Salvucci
      Jun 11, 2021 @ 15:41:05

      Hey Madi!

      CoVid really did create a kind of blur between work life and home life. Being at an office creates a space to associate with work, and when we leave it’s a lot easier to change our mindset. I struggled with time boundaries for individuals and groups at times during internship, I was hesitant to cut people off when we were approaching the end of a session so I didn’t allow myself time to transition smoothly.

      Your comment about screen time is very true, many of use social media as a sort of distraction, but I don’t think it generally recharges us in the long run. Going for walks is a really great way to change the scenery and decompress! I often find that my brain is making a to do list when I’m with clients or trying to focus on paperwork, so externalizing it is definitely helpful.

      Trainings are definitely an important part of working at any agency, it can expose us to new ideas as well as clinical styles and teaching styles that may resonate with us. Ideally spending time on topics in psychology that interest us in our free time can also keep our practices feeling fresh.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 72 other followers

%d bloggers like this: