What happens when you as the counsellor are the one that is feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and in need of support? Just like your clients, it’s probably time to start focusing on your own mental health and well-being. There are a number of self-care options for therapists, below I’ll introduce you to my personal top five.
Top Five Self-Care Tips For Counsellors & Psychotherapists
Tip 1. Find A Peer Support Network
Being a therapist in Canada, as a private practice owner or even when you are an associate of a group practice can be an isolating existence, even before COVID-19 hit. Although you may be seeing clients all day, as the mental health professional, you are most likely doing a lot more listening than talking, and depending on the type of clients you see, the emotional toll at the end of some days can be quite high.
If you’re drained and feel like you have nobody appropriate you can debrief with, it may be a good idea to look into finding a peer support network of other therapists. There are many private Facebook groups that you can search out and ask to join that arrange monthly video sessions, or often you can find peer support networks through whatever school you went to, or the professional associations that you belong to. Many new support networks are popping us as there is a growing need!
Tip 2. Don’t Have A Supervisor? It May Be Time To Find One
Do you feel like a supervisor isn’t necessary now that you have all of your hours and full registered designations? Or have you just been justifying not seeing one due to the cost? Listen, I get it, supervisors are NOT cheap, but they can lend so much support when you have been struggling with boundaries with clients (let’s not pretend you’ve never booked a session on a weekend for a client or skipped lunch due to someone going over their time). Supervisors can lend insights into challenges and be good support for those days when you’re feeling like your best just wasn’t good enough.
Most supervisors are also able to let you know when a client may not be a good fit for your skills and in a way give you the permission you need to refer that client off to a different therapist (because really you can’t be the perfect fit for every person who reaches out). Seeing a supervisor even monthly or bi-monthly can be a great way to get a little extra self-care, and although it’s expensive, it’s also a tax write-off!
Tip 3. Schedule Non-Screen Relaxation Time!
With the COVID-19 Pandemic, mental health professionals around Canada had to switch almost exclusively to working online through secure video, this has put your eyes and the rest of your body under a ton of extra! Headaches, eye strain, sore necks and shoulders are just a few of the issues that I’ve heard my therapist clients express concerns over since the pandemic began.
During your workday, schedule a 30-minute break beyond your lunchtime in order to look get up and stretch your body a little, maybe go for a short walk, and simply breathe and see the world without a screen in front of you! It’s amazing what a difference this can make in re-grounding yourself for the day.
Tip 4. Meditate For Your Mental Health
You’ve probably recommended it to your clients a dozen or more times, but when is the last time you meditated? It is something that many of us have begun to associate with exercise and eating broccoli, good for us, but not much fun. The thing is, even just 5 minutes at the end of a workday has been know to help with having better sleeps at night and better concentration during the day.
If you’ve been struggling with feeling burned out, meditation can help to get you feeling more grounded and can also support you in taking a look at your life and seeing what changes need to be made.
Tip 5. Hire A Virtual Assistant!
You know this was coming, I’m a virtual assistant! Of course I’m going to recommend my services to you. But really and truly, even if you don’t hire my company to help your private or group practice, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and overworked, hiring a virtual assistant for as little as 10 hours a month can help SO much! I’ve seen it first hand with all of my clients. They get their lives back. They have a buffer between them and the client when it comes to things like payment issues or scheduling requests.
Here’s an extra tip: When you are looking for a virtual assistant to help you with your therapy practice, make sure the person you hire already has experience working with counsellors. I have heard from so many of my clients what a relief it is to be able to delegate their workload to someone who they don’t have to teach Owl Practice or Jane to, who understands how vulnerable their clients are and knows how to communicate kindly and clearly with them. Imagine how good it would feel to know you could go on vacation and that a competent person is still watching over your clinic or private practice? That’s the kind of support that a competent virtual assistant can add to your life.