2 Tips To Help Therapists Who Are Feeling Overwhelmed
When the going gets tough, the tough take things slow and seek support.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | November 8, 2022
The Covid-19 pandemic left in its wake another health crisis that had been in the making for years – the mental health crisis.
Add to this the new recommendation by a national mental health task force advising preventative anxiety screening for kids and adolescents and we might be looking at a system-level collapse in the future.
While we learn how to weather the waves created by this recommendation, it is important to highlight the challenges this recommendation poses for our mental health workforce, like:
- An increased workload
- A lack of consistent screening mechanisms
- The responsibility to explain the complexities of mental health to a less experienced but over-exposed demographic
- Gathering information on child and adolescent psychology to create age-appropriate frameworks of treatment
Now more than ever mental health professionals need to take steps to take care of their own mental health. When you are overwhelmed with professional responsibilities, it can be easy to overlook your own well-being for the sake of your patients.
If you are a mental healthcare worker feeling anxious or overburdened, here are two steps you can take to regain balance.
#1 Seek peer support
According to a study published in Frontiers of Psychology, work-related support and supervisory support can act as powerful buffers against burnout in clinical psychologists.
Seeking consultation from experts, colleagues, mentors, etc. can help you provide better treatment to your clients and keep feelings of overwhelm and burnout at bay.
If you have been practicing a solo career so far, consider joining or partnering with a professional organization that helps with the logistical and resource-dependent parts of your job, so you can focus solely on treatment.
Many therapists have made the move to virtual therapy since the Covid-19 pandemic. While there are advantages to practicing online, it can also be isolating and leave you feeling like you are 'on an island.' Make sure to stay in contact with your peers. Set up weekly or monthly check-in meetings where you can discuss clinical issues and hear others' perspectives. Not only will this ease your job stress, it will make you a better therapist.
#2 Learn to turn off 'therapy mode'
One common occupational hazard in the mental health sector is being in a state of constant worry. Psychologists are predisposed to burnout as their profession requires them to constantly put others needs before their own.
In fact, research published in Professional Psychology shows that therapists are highly reluctant when it comes to seeking out professional help even though they know its benefits the best. A therapist's professional tendencies can bleed into their personal life, leading to relationships that feature one-sided vulnerability.
The need to draw strong boundaries between your professional and personal life and learning to lean on your loved ones and/or professionals for support can go a long way in restoring the balance that you might be risking when treating patients. Don't be afraid to book your own therapy appointment. Don't be afraid to tell your friends and family members you can't be their therapist too.
We are living in a particularly challenging time in the history of mental health, but also an exciting time. Learning when to take breaks and creating an environment that nourishes and restores your faculties will make sure that you come out of the storm victorious.