Prevention of burnout in therapists
So, it is an unfortunate fact that many therapists, who are aiming to help people, end up needing therapy themselves.
Self care is important for people who are engaging in helping others to deal with traumatic events in their lives.
However, it is evident that there is a huge lack of awareness in how to maintain balance and give the support to themselves for many therapists.
Rather than relying on and needing external support, it is imperative in my view, and in my own experience that an effective therapist learns to not only maintain, but develop their own level of support, which is strengthened and developed every single day of their lives, proactively.
Another important statement is that therapists are people, who enter their careers with their own personal wounds and psychological challenges. This is why, for a serious therapist, just one of the fundamental parts of their training should include their own therapy to begin the clearance of their own obstacles.
If a therapist sits in front of a client with their own distracting thoughts, feelings and emotions, they cannot ever be fully present and actually listening to the client in front of them.
This is achieved firstly through their own training, and maintained through their own proactive building of inner calm and stillness in their own minds.
An effective therapist cannot be experiencing their own negative associations to trauma based on the client's experiences in the session. This is not the same as not being able to empathise, empathy is based on a feeling level understanding, not in joining and accepting the negative experience as their own.
The importance of self regulation is fundamental, however, in my opinion this important skill is honed, practiced and developed outside of the therapy room.
For example, a virtuoso pianist does not leave their training and practice until their performance on the big night. They often practice for 6-8 hours every day for years before their big performances, and this allows them to enter in to a state of flow in their performance and to immerse themselves in the performance with non effort. This is high performance.
The therapist is the same. They must hone, practice and develop their focus, clarity and presence of mind continuously to allow them to immerse themselves in the client, and deal with what emerges in that moment, in a state of flow, with non effort. Clearly this develops over time.
The therapist should absolutely empathise with the client, I agree, however, empathy is not the same as taking on the clients feelings. We, as therapists, must maintain a level of awareness that is greater than the clients.
I have many therapists as clients, and it is an unfortunate state that much training does not equip the therapist adequately with their own resources to develop and maintain balance.
Supervision is important, especially in the early days of their careers, however, a therapist should grow in strength with experience and practice, and the supervision should then take a different route becoming more of a mentoring role, which is used much less frequently as the therapist develops their own style from their training, combined with their experiences and their own practice of self care.
I think there is more that therapists can be doing from themselves, meaning that they do not end up in the therapy room as a client, after initial training.
If we are teaching others about changing the mind and the patterns of thinking developed in the brain, we should be practicing that power for ourselves.