Self Care for Therapists

480px-Caring_Success_--_What_You_Need_--_Some_of_the_Icons_for_Anthony_Iannarino's_New_Book by Roy Blumenthal

I was reading a blog by Dr. Lissa Rankin the other day on “Why Your Doctor Has PTSD,” and it made me think about an upcoming workshop offered by the Maiberger Institute: “Self Care for Therapists

Dr. Rankin talks about doctors being traumatized by seeing patients who are in pain on a daily basis. Doctors are dealing with death, disease, disability, despair, anxiety, fear, and the unknown. She states that doctors have normalized their traumatic experiences because it has been normalized as “just a part of the job.” They are overworked, exhausted and wear down. Then she then goes on to state that the system is highly traumatized… you have the doctors but also the nurses and then of course the patients. The room if full of TRAUMA…

Dr. Rankin continues to explore the idea that doctors need to heal themselves – and to start by having compassion for self, and then see that others may have been impacted by them. As healers they are just human with humans thoughts, reactions and needs.

The same goes for psychotherapists. Katie Asmus and I created “Self Care for Therapists” because we have struggled with our self care ourselves, and we see as we help therapists working with trauma struggle with their own self care. It sounds easy — take care of yourself — but that is actually a huge task. Under stress, the easiest thing to do is to throw out your own self care, and go into habitual stress patterns.

Let me give you an example. I have discovered over many years that caffeine makes me anxious and I experience this sense of nothing is done on time and that everything is an emergency. But I continued to drink caffeine… even with this understanding of myself. The thought of giving up caffeine was very difficult. I would go off caffeine and feel a whole new me, only to have the next stressor come in and undermine my best intentions. Over the years, my body has become less tolerant of caffeine. Now after a month on it my body says, “NO MORE!” And once I detox again, and find more balance. Realizing and appreciating this process is an important part of self care.

When crisis and trauma arise, the tendency is to go with what is familiar, which may not be taking care of others rather than ourselves. We might be sabotaging the whole process. As a therapist who dealt with clients who are traumatized, I would see this everyday where clients couldn’t find ways to take care of themselves. It was foreign to them. And now helping psychotherapists in their practices, I see that they are overworked, burned out on emotions, and view self care as the last thing on their priority list.

Well, guess what? Self care needs to be FIRST on your priority list.  As a person said to me the other day, “I need to do what the airline flight attendants tell us, put your oxygen mask on first BEFORE assisting others.”

When you are tapped out, then you have nothing to give. What you end up giving to others is a short temper, less patience, and maybe feeling out of control and everything can become overwhelming.

In this field, it is easy to get burned out – or to take on your clients’ problems and emotions – if you find yourself not wanting to go to work today. If you find yourself reading hearing another trauma story, and just exhausted all the time, you might need to rethink your self care plan.

Katie and I hope you can join us to experience a workshop that is all about self care for psychotherapists. Come and explore and find a self care plan that you can put into action immediately. We would love to see you there.


Self Care for Therapists

Boulder, CO

November 16 – 17, 2013

EMDRIA Credits: 12 CEU
NBCC Credits: 12 CE hours (1.2 CEU)

Early Bird Special: Sign up before October 18, 2013 to receive a $50 discount on your registration fee.

Self Care for Therapists

 Image Source: Roy Blumenthal