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How difficult is it to keep yourself from becoming emotionally drained as a psychologist?

I have always been an empath, and I love nothing more than to talk people through their problems and help in any way I can. Sometimes, though, I find myself almost "absorbing" the negative emotions and energies in the people I'm talking with. I want to become a professional psychologist, most likely a therapist with research side-work, and I'm wondering how others in this profession avoid becoming "drained" when they see emotionally troubled people all day long? This is what I want to do more than anything, but I want to ensure my own mental health as well. How do I achieve this work-life balance? #psychology #therapy #counseling #neuroscience #work-life-balance #mental-health #mental-health-counseling #empathy

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Judith-Ann’s Answer

The most loving way to retain your strength and compassion is to know that what they are telling you is about and for them, not you. You are there for them, and the best way to do that is to keep your unconditional regard for them surrounded with solid professional boundaries. You must stay in the moment with them by staying unattached to their feelings. You can still show warmth and say supportive things without taking on their pain. If you find yourself unable to detach, you might want to consider exploring why you can't in your own therapy. Also, you want to add things to your life that keep you happy and fulfilled-like music, theatre, sports, painting,etc. And finally, stay healthy with your workout routine and meditation habits. In addition, don't assume you know the answers to their problems, and don't fall into the trap that you are their role model. They must do the work, and they must eventually move on without you.

Thank you!! This is very helpful. Emily T.

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Dr. Ray’s Answer

Dear Emily,

I agree that maintaining your own emotional balance while dealing with unhappy individuals can be a challenge. For me the most important thing to remember is that you are not helping your clients by being caught up in their distress. It is important to have a degree of empathy, but a therapist is somewhat like a fireman, namely a professional who has skills to help clients get past their unhappiness and develop better coping patterns. No one really wants a fireman to be super empathetic; they want him or her to do their job and put out the fire.

It also helps me to focus on the fact that almost all my clients will feel and function better if I do my job as a therapist, so their situations are actually full of hope.

Finally, I think that having a satisfying life outside of work is important. Therapists who are miserable and unhappy in their own lives are not likely to be helpful to others.

I hope this information is helpful. I wish you success in your career pursuits.

Ray Finn, Ph.D.

Thank you so much-- this will be very helpful for me when I start my career. Emily T.

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Emily,

The golden rule to not succumb or not to get involved emotionally during psychotherapy sessions, is yourself as a professional, do psychotherapy as well.

Many psychologists, psychoanalysts and therapists often do therapy with another psychologist, in order to meet and advise the best way possible those seeking help and counseling.

I hope this information can help you. Best!

Thank you so much! Emily T.

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Jamie’s Answer

As a fellow empath, i know it can be hard and it has taken me time to find what works. Mindfulness is a big part of it. I need to be aware of what I am feeling so when I begin to feel their stuff too much, I can let it go. Because otherwise you are absorbing their stuff. Self care is important, as is grounding. Some empaths do shielding, though it is not my thing. I carry black tourmaline and a few other crystals with me for added support and clear my aura often (ask my higher power to release anything from my aura which does not belong to me).

I would also suggest learning more about your empath skills. There are some great groups on Facebook and many energy healers/reiki practitioners who would be able to guide you.

We have a great gift of being an empath and it can feel like a curse at times. I m grateful for it, as it gives me a glimpse into my clients lives that others do not notice. I also realize how much my mood can affect others and how I need to take care of me to bright light into the world. It will take practice and you will find the right formula for you to manage most days! Best of luck!

Thank you! Sometimes it can be hard to appreciate being an empath, but at the same time, it is because of it that we are able to help others. :) Emily T.

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Rachel’s Answer

You will need to focus on stress and time management. In order to manage stress you have to manage your time wisely. <span style="background-color: transparent;">You have to set a routine for yourself and stick to it for the most part. Once you get into the groove of a routine it will be much easier for you to manage your time and have enough time for everything you need to do (including relaxing). Make yourself to-do lists on a weekly basis, use Google calendar or a planner to keep track of events, deadlines, and due dates. In addition to setting a routine and sticking to it, plan out relaxing activities into your day. Or set aside a time, after everything is done for the day, that you can have "me" time. I have also personally found it essential to not only find time for myself but also make use of that time in a way that is best for me and my holistic wellness. I have found the HeadSpace app to be an essential tool in helping me relax and generally feel more relaxed throughout the day, Guided meditation, even if you have a busy schedule, will make you feel more at ease and relaxed throughout the day as a whole (not just when you have the time to relax and focus on that "me" time).</span>

<span style="background-color: transparent;">Set a routine.Use Google Calendar.Set aside Me TimeWrite weekly to-do lists and use a planner.Find a peaceful and restful activity that will help you feel relaxed.</span>