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Is Being A Mental Therapist Mentally Draining?

If so, how do you manage it?

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Kate’s Answer

Hi Sophia! Great questions.
I'm a psychologist; I've been doing counseling and psychotherapy for about 30 years, off and on (ie part-time during my education, a few years not at all); steadily since 2011, licensed since 2012. I have taught and supervised student therapists and licensed therapists.
So - I'd say that everyone who becomes a therapist finds it mentally/emotionally draining at times -- more at the beginning, when you often are balancing school and psychotherapy training, and you know less about how to take care of yourself (also you might not be getting paid for early internships). Over time, you figure out what kinds of clients or problems are most likely to take more energy (or more internal boundary-setting), and you might see fewer of those (or none) if you have a choice, or build in more consultation/supervision, break time, self-care, and ways of approaching that client to reduce the "draining" feeling.
In your education and training, and especially in supervision, which you will hopefully always have as a therapist, whether you are licensed or not, you can talk and learn about how to notice when you are getting drained, how to assess whether that might help you understand a particular client better (ie if it is just with one client), and what to do about it. OH AND -- I have been in therapy off and on for my entire adult life, and that is a huge help when it comes to managing the impacts of my work in the mental health field.
Overall, I find my job energizing, interesting and fun. I have days when I am a bit more tired, and days when I come away feeling really jazzed and excited because a client has had a breakthrough or the sessions have gone really well.

Kate recommends the following next steps:

Start paying attention to what kinds of events/interactions/situations stress you out or leave you drained
Start accumulating a really broad array of ways of caring for yourself
Start seeing a therapist if you haven't yet, and work in therapy to identify "vulnerable spots" and ways to build up emotional boundaries so other people's stuff doesn't affect you as much
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Kate for the advice. Sophia
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice, Kate. Sadie
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear Sophia,

Reply: The role of a mental health therapist can be emotionally challenging, given the need to listen and respond to patients' emotional difficulties while offering support and guidance. However, there are several methods therapists use to ensure their emotional health and professional efficacy.

Therapists often manage emotional exhaustion by setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care. This involves limiting the number of clients they attend to and scheduling breaks between sessions. They also engage in self-reflection and supervision to process their personal emotions and responses to their work, ensuring they are emotionally prepared for their patients.

Another effective approach is to cultivate a robust support network, both in personal and professional life. This could involve reaching out to colleagues for peer supervision and consultation, as well as maintaining strong relationships with friends and family who can provide emotional support.

Lastly, therapists often indulge in regular self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or pursuing hobbies to foster their mental health and well-being. These activities help alleviate stress and strike a balance between their professional and personal lives.

Reference Titles for Further Reading:

American Psychological Association (APA). (2021). Helping therapists help themselves: Self-care strategies for mental health professionals. American Psychological Association. This reference gives a detailed overview of self-care strategies for mental health professionals, including boundary-setting, seeking support, and engaging in self-reflection. It offers practical advice and resources to help therapists handle the emotional requirements of their work.
GoodTherapy.org. (2021). Self-care for therapists: Tips for maintaining your mental health. GoodTherapy.org. This resource provides a comprehensive guide for therapists on self-care practices, highlighting the importance of setting boundaries, seeking support, and engaging in activities that foster mental health and well-being.
Barnett, L. (2018). The importance of self-care for therapists. Psychotherapy Networker. Retrieved from https://www.psychotherapy.net/blog/importance-self-care-therapists In this article, the author discusses the critical aspect of self-care for therapists and the potential risks of neglecting one's emotional health. It offers insights into the challenges mental health professionals face and provides suggestions for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Kindly check out my autobiography for a list of nutrient-rich foods that can enhance academic performance, combat stress, and boost memory. I appreciate your time.

God Bless,
James.
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Dr. Conni’s Answer

Hi Sophia
That is an important question. Just like everything in counseling it is something you begin to learn to manage in graduate school, then you work on it for the rest of your career. You have to learn to switch yourself on and off as a counselor. When you are working with a client you are totally there with them, then when they leave you have to be totally disconnected from them. It is a difficult skill that takes time to learn. When you are a beginning counselor you will have weekly meetings with an experienced supervisor who will help you sort out issues related to counseling and help you find ways of dealing with these kinds of issues. As you progress in your career you will find collogues who you can consult with and share ideas on this and many other topics. A good thing to know is when you need to go to your own counseling, it helps you be a better counselor and function at a higher level.
Find things in your life that are not counseling related. Counseling is a job-not who you are. It is however the most amazing career.
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