Therapy – such an important part of peoples lives. A neutral and objective place to explore feelings. To learn about yourself. To change destructive habits. To work through any trauma. To overcome addictions. To break negative patterns. To unpick past experiences and learn from them. To take time for you. To make space for you. To learn how to cope…… the list is endless.
Therapy is life changing. It has such a powerful and positive impact for people. The process is often demanding. It can be so challenging and relentless at times. Healing is tough. Change is tough. It often gets harder before it gets easier. Sometimes people hit rock bottom before they start to climb back up. Sometimes they are angry, they lash out, they get upset, they act out. Sometimes its too much and they stop. In the end change is beautiful. In the end things become easier to manage. But what happens in the meantime?? Who holds all the pain and who sits with clients during their darkest moments?
So who in turn takes care of the therapist ??
Sometimes clients worry about that. They think about it and they are mindful that the person sitting in front of them is in fact a human being. Not just a therapist, but a person with their own life. Their own challenges. Their own struggles. Struggles that can at times also be tough. It is our job as therapists to reassure them that they don’t need to worry about us. That we are ok. We take care of ourselves and we are therefore able to be there for them.
After all… you cant pour from an empty cup.
Self-care is so important for everyone. But as a therapist – in our line of work. It is even more important. We need to maintain our own physical and mental health. It is after all as important as everyone else’s.
We also need to invest our time wisely and take care of ourselves – not only for our own wellbeing. But to do our job properly.
Practicing good self means that we will be able to connect even more with our clients, avoid clinical burn out and emotional exhaustion, and remain fully attentive and creative in our work.
So fundamentally – a therapist looks after themselves – through their own self- care.
Here are some examples of how they do that –
- They check in with themselves regularly
- They know when it is important to take a break
- They take the time to plan their breaks throughout the year
- They don’t over commit or take on too high a case load
- They focus on saying no when they need too
- They put healthy boundaries in place
- They schedule clinical days and admin days
- They look at their own life balance and improve it if necessary
- They surround themselves with positive people – those that bring out the best in them
- They make space for ‘fun’ – laughter, creativity etc
- They look after their own well-being – improving things like their sleep patterns, their eating, their exercise etc
- They make space in their week for the things that make them feel good
- They make time outside of work for themselves – ‘me time’ becomes the norm in their diary
- They work on their support networks – both personal and professional. And they improve them
- They step back into therapy if they need too
- They make space for regular supervision and use it well
The last two points here are so important. Not only does a therapist have their own personal and professional support network to turn too. They also have their supervisor and a therapist if needed.
Supervision is so important in the work that therapists too. Supervision offers a space to explore client work, to look at any blocks or challenges in the work and to overcome things so that clients can get their needs met.
It also however offers a really important space for a therapist to feel held, contained, supported and encouraged. It is a place where the therapist can feel safe to explore anything that is coming up for them – both personally and professionally.
So, the supervisor also takes care of the therapist – and in turn their supervisor takes care of them. And so, the support network goes on.
Therapists can also turn to their colleagues if they are part of therapeutic team or they can join a therapeutic community. This in turn reduces the level of isolation that can be felt in the work at times.
In addition to this, therapists also go for therapy. They do not have to be in it as part of the job, but most are – as part of their own self care and as a way of investing in themselves and their wellbeing. Therapy is just as important for the therapist as it is for their clients. And naturally at different times in their life therapists will face their own challenges.
So, the therapist also takes care of the therapist – and in turn that therapist can go for therapy. And so, the support network goes on.
It is true that being a therapist can be at time very challenging, demanding and isolating. However if the therapist takes good care of themselves, and uses the support around them as much as possible – then it is all manageable an doable.
The vital thing is being aware of when something is not working, and in turn working hard to make the changes to improve things. This could relate to things like clinical case load, timetables and the hours worked, life balance etc It can also relate to a therapist’s support network – colleagues, supervisor, therapist etc. After all the heart of good therapy is the relationship. So, in turn it is the therapist’s responsibility to nurture the relationships in their support network and to get what they need from them. If they aren’t getting their needs met, then they can challenge that. It all begins with the relationship we have with ourselves. That is the most important one – even for the therapist.